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Christmas Eve Run to Posey’s

David Yon, December 18, 2016 update

Don’t ask me how it could be, but Sunday is Christmas already. If you asked me to select one event that best reflected GWTC, I would select the Christmas Eve Run to St. Marks to Posey's. More than anything else it is a gathering of family and friends. The run roughly follows the path of the old Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad line and the paved trail is known now as the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. A group of runners usually start at the trail head located near the intersection of Capital Circle and Woodville Highway at 7:30 a.m. and run approximately 15.6 miles to St. Marks and, until 2005, Posey’s.  Others jump in anywhere they want along the way.  The main goal: to finish in St. Marks and enjoy food and drink with friends and family. 

Tony Kronenburg gives the following account of the “first” Run to Posey’s on Christmas Eve morning 1980.   “As Christmas approached with no family to visit and no one to spend the holiday with I decided to run to St. Marks via the rail line to St. Marks on Christmas Eve day.  As a long-time railroad fan, I recognized that yet another rail line was headed for extinction.  I also enjoyed the countryside, and wanted to do something that would be memorable for Christmas.  I enlisted Joe Blessing to join me, and Joe in turn invited two younger guys who were FSU physics majors.  Although I can picture these young and very bright guys who were outstanding runners I can not recall their names 25 (now 35) years later.” 

They parked at the corner of the Truck Route and Woodville Highway, and found it easier to run on the shoulder of the highway until just north of Woodville.  From there they turned off onto a dirt road that closely paralleled the railroad tracks.  After running to the south side of Woodville they ran on the tracks until reaching highway 98.  At that point they crossed back over to the highway and ran the remaining distance to the Fort at St. Marks.  Of course, they topped off the run with a visit to Posey’s before Joy Opheim picked them all up in small VW.

Rex and Mae Cleveland both report running the event in 1982 and doubt that was the first year the run occurred.   In 1983 Tony reported the temperatures fell dramatically during the run with the temperatures freezing cold by the end of the run.  Most residents lost power and thus heat on Christmas Eve and Day.  On the day after Christmas in 1983 Tim Kelly, Gino Glotzbach and Tony traveled to the St. Marks Lighthouse as part of the course preparation for the upcoming 30K run, where they found that the alligator pond and many of the interior ponds covered by a layer of ice.   The three of them ventured out on the ice of the pond, where Tim Kelly ventured too far and fell through the ice.  “Fortunately the water was shallow and the ice thin and Tim walked out covered with algae, and ice,” Tony reported. 

My first-year of participating was 1984 and I noted in my diary that there are "around 26 people" running the distance from the trail head.  Running to Posey's that year meant running along an abandoned railway bed, sometimes on nearby pavement, sometimes on adjacent dirt road and sometimes through thick sand or mud where railroad tracks once lay. The concept of a paved trail was, at best, a gleam in Joe Beckham's eyes then.  He reports that the old railroad tracks came up in 1983 and the trail was paved in 1987.   The gleam in Joe's eye of a real trail became a reality after a lot of hard by Joe and others in the St. Marks Rails to Trails Association.

The Run to Posey's has always been a very loosely organized event, but sometime in the late 80's Mary Jean Yon and Bill Lott began organizing water stops and even produced a few flyers to advertise the run. The event took off and now it is not unusual to see nearly 100 faces in Posey's who have run or biked some part of the trail on Christmas Eve.

Posey’s was one of those salty oyster bars on the water that specialized in smoked mullet and Saturday night parties which had a good chance of someone starting a fight.  Dollar bills covered the ceilings and were making their way down the walls. The back deck hung out over the St. Marks River just before it joined with the Wakulla River and then pushed its way out into the Gulf of Mexico.

But Florida is a peninsular that often serves as a landing spot of hurricanes.  In 2005, Hurricane Dennis made its way up the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle.  It paused some miles before striking land, perhaps trying to decide where to go.  Fortunately, it chose a spot west of us (Santa Rosa Island), but before doing so, the category 4 storm took a deep breath and blew hard at Florida’s armpit.  A wave of water rolled toward St. Marks with nowhere to go but the shore line.  Before it stopped the city of St. Marks was underwater and Posey’s was damaged so badly it would not survive.

But you know us crazy runners, we are just not smart enough to figure out when to stop, and so, the run continues every year as The Run to Posey’s.  Even if runners gather at Riverside Café or one of the other good places willing to open their doors in the morning on Christmas Eve.