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 2013 Female Runner of the Year

Presented by Reikan Lin

I have to admit that I was pretty surprised when I was asked to present the Runner of the Year award because I’m relatively new to this club, and they probably could have selected someone who’s a bit more mature than I am (in the end, I guess they just went by looks). I’m very grateful to be here to present this award and be a part of the Gulf Winds Track Club community. This particular runner received a total of four nominations for this award—a true testament to all of this runner’s accomplishments in 2013.

You may be able to think of faster runners, but consistent performance throughout the year made this runner stand out. To organize all her accomplishments, I put together a matrix of her races. To sum it up, she ran a total of 37 races in 2013 at 16 different distances. Some highlights included 2 overall female victories, 8 overall female master’s victories, 6 overall female grandmaster’s wins, and 13 first-place age group honors.

But that’s not the only measure of consistency. The Gulf Winds Track Club Grand Prix is a yearlong competition where runners race for points in 15 events of varying throughout the year. That means that Grand Prix winners have to excel at several distances for the entire year. In 2013, she ran 13 of the events, and she took first place in her age group. However, by the end of year, she placed in the top five in the overall competition and is the only grand master in this elite crowd.

There's also consistency at the personal level. This runner, at age 52, recorded a lot major PR’s last year. These aren't you automatic PRs you might expect from running Bobby York's Summer Trail Series or the Mike Burns WTF Miler for the first time. We’re talking common distance, like the 5k, 10k, and half-marathon. It also doesn’t sound like she’s going to stop—she PR’d at the Turkey Trot even though she had to stop and remove a rock from her shoe.

I think the best way to describe the magnitude and the prevalence of her winnings is that 90% of my Facebook news feed is pictures of this runner receiving race awards. I'll be scrolling down my feed on my daily scan, and I'll see her holding a huge trophy for winning a race. A couple more posts in, there's another photo status update from her husband saying that he's freaking out from the giant eagle award staring down at him.
Oh and what's this? I was tagged in a photo? Sweet! Then I'll check it out and see a picture of me holding my first ever overall award, only to see this runner holding her overall first place award that easily dwarfs my own.

Aside from being really fast, there are a few other reasons why she is deserving of this award. As a grandmaster, she shows that this sport can be for all ages. She began running in 2006 with only 2 races, and now in 2013, she ran 37 races and is recognized as a competitive runner. She’s the team captain of a GWTC women’s team. They have been known as the Supersonics, SouthWood Super Girls, Team We Eat Sweets (try saying that 10x fast), and this year, they became the Tallafasties (whoever came up with that is a genius). They came in second at the Palace Saloon 5k and the Springtime 10k.

She’s also a contributor to the GWTC community. For a good part of 2013, she was the Gulf Winds clothing coordinator. She was frequently at lot of GWTC events, such as running groups, lectures, and races. On a personal level, she sort of conned me into buying half of the store. She also represented the club by racing outside of Tallahassee in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, and she ran as part of the Gulf Winds team at the Gate to Gate 4.4mi at Eglin Air Force Base.

I often joke about the inclusion of a Gulf Winds "Most Fashionable" award. Actually, it's not a joke; I’m quite serious about this (Felton, I'm looking at you to get this added ASAP). If this award existed, this runner would definitely win. She is easily the most fashionable runner in the club, always clad in color coordinated, matching outfits. What this means is, aside from looking hot (as I'm detecting a glare from her husband), this is important because she exemplifies how the sport can be made fun and engaging for all ages and abilities. She's the type of runner who is fun to be around and makes you want to keep running.

I’m proud to present the 2013 Runner of the Year to Paula O’Neill.