When it Doesn’t Go as Planned – 2007 Tallahassee Marathon


David Yon


Some days just don’t go the way you plan them. And sometimes that is a good thing. Judson Cake, for example, woke up race morning thinking, “I am going to go rabbit 25 kilometers or so for some really fast runner from Kenya.” And marathon race director Jay Silvanima, who wanted to build on the great work of previous directors and take the Tallahassee Marathon to new heights, worked hard to lure some elite Kenyan runners to Tallahassee for the race. He created a $500 prize for first place and another $500 for breaking Tallahassee Marathon records. In fact prize money went three deep, $500, $250 and $150. As a way of helping those fast Kenyans out, he reached out to the Zap Fitness Program of Peter Rea to help the fast Kenyans through the race. While it is a long story, the fast Kenyans didn’t show. But Judson Cake did.

Cake, who was named 2005 Maine Runner of the Year by New England Runner Magazine, took off at the start of the race and blasted to a 5:10 first mile. He has a 2:24 marathon best and he has his eyes (and training) set on breaking the 2:20 mark at this year’s Boston Marathon. As he clicked off mile after mile at just under a 5:15 minute per mile pace, he pulled far ahead of anyone else in the race. It didn’t take long for the light to go off – run a good hard 20 mile run, then jog in and claim the prize. The result gave Jay got what he wanted – a fast winning time – and Judson collected the $500 first place prize, while getting in a good Boston workout. His winning time of 2:28:15 was the third fastest in the race’s history. The record of 2:23:55 was set by Mike Patterson in 1983 on the hilly Killearn Estates course. Valdosta’s John Seppala took the second place prize in a time of 2:41:46 and masters winner Myles Gibson also took third in 2:44:28.

The performance of the day, however, belonged to the women’s winner, Valerie Gortmaker. Valerie made her way down from Omaha, Nebraska (could it be a good sign for the FSU baseball team?) with a mission to qualify for the women’s Olympic Trials. She beat the B standard of 2:47 by running a 2:46:09 and setting a new Tallahassee Marathon record. By winning the race and beating Paula Johnson’s 1991 course record of 2:56:10, Valerie pocketed $1,000 in earnings. Breaking the standard was not easy and the last few miles saw the cushion that Valerie had built up early start slipping away. She held steady enough though to break the mark by almost a minute. Second place was taken by Helen Zayac who made the trip up from Tampa to run 3:21:17 and third place again went to the masters winner, Deb Thomford, from Zumbrota, Minnesota who ran 3:25:27.

Daniel Crane, part of the FSU Tri Club, took the half marathon title in 1:19:24 good enough to hold off the women’s winner Sheryl Rosen who ran 1:21:35. It was yet another PR for the GWTC 2006 Runner of the Year. Sheryl seems to be more than ready to bust the 3:00 mark in her Boston Debut later this year. Eddie Storako took second male and third overall with a good time of 1:22:17. The second woman was Lisa Johnson who ran 1:28:15. The masters winners were Reid Vannoy, 1:25:30 and Jane Johnson, 1:33:27.

Two athletes competed in the wheel chair division. Vickie Horne powered her hand cycle to a time of 2:47:52 and Mackey Tyndall pushed his wheel chair to a time of 3:21:36.

The race turnout was phenomenal as a record number of finishers took advantage of perfect conditions. The 281 finishers in half and 170 finishers in the whole totaled 451 finishers. The previous best in the marathon was 133 and the most to finish the half was 229. There were more than 94 cities, 25 states and three countries represented. Hajime Nishi, from Tokyo, made his second visit to Tallahassee. He has now run over 500 marathons.

It was Jay Silvanima’s debut as a race director. What a way to introduce yourself to the job. Jay did an outstanding job. He was most fortunate to have previous race director Jack McDermott providing lost of help. And no one did more the make the race a success than Mark Priddy who made sure the dozens and dozens of corners along the course were covered. There are lots more who deserve recognition for making this race, by far the most complicated GWTC race to direct, a huge success. Of course making it a success was something we all expected and something that went “as planned.”