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A Story Worth Telling Again

David Yon, Revised November 5, 2018

October serves up one of GWTC’s most unique races – both most beloved and most despised (sometimes by the same people). Weather did not permit the event to be run on its originally scheduled day, October 13 as Hurricane Michael blasted the Panhandle with almost category 5 force.  That is another story.
Down, but not out.  At 7:30 a.m., Saturday, November 10, the Pine Run 20K (12.4 miles) will offer runners a unique opportunity to experience the beautiful grounds of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The most beloved feelings come from the beauty of the land and forests the race is run on and through. Tall Timbers commitment to conservation evidenced by the work seen on the grounds creates respect. The long, steep climbs to the tops of the most unfriendly giants start with muffled cursing which becomes groans of agony as the course keeps climbing.  The load swearing is saved for the tall grass that hides holes and rough terrain.

The Pine Run has had two lives: the first from 1977 until 2006 at International Paper’s Experimental Forest, just outside of Bainbridge, Georgia, and the second, starting in 2008, at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.  We all hope that Tall Timber’s commitment continues for many years to come. The two venues have many things in common – great beauty, challenging footing on trails, and tall hairy hills.  And I have always had a special place in my heart for them.  This Saturday Gary and Peg Griffin will make their second effort at directing the 2018 version of the race.  Unlike the first effort, there are no hurricanes in the gulf.

Unfortunately, as human beings we tend to make many land use decisions without understanding the impact those decisions have on the environment.  The Red Hills of North Florida and South Georgia are unique in character, but have been damaged in past years by poor land use decisions. It a perfect match having Tall Timbers be the home for the Pine Run. The organization remains dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural state of the ecosystem in the Red Hills Area. It is a great example of what cooperation and generosity can do. Originally the hunting plantation of Henry L. Beadel, Tall Timbers Research Station came into existence when Beadel died and left his land and enough resources to create “a fire type nature preserve … to conduct research on the effects of fire on quail, turkey and other wildlife, as well as on vegetation of value as cover and food for wildlife, and experiments on burning for said objectives.” Out of that came the Tall Timbers Research Station Land Conservancy, originally known as the Red Hills Conservation Association.  Tall Timbers now helps protect and manage over 114,000 acres which are subject to conservation easements.

A few years ago, I had the chance to run the course ahead of time. It worked out that I ran alone.  Now, I love running with my friends, but Tall Timbers is a great place to run alone too. On an early Sunday morning, you are likely to have the place to yourself.  Well, maybe not totally alone. During the first mile, I think I got a quick look at a coyote. Later, as I ran to the edge of Lake Iamonia, a giant hawk spread its wings wide before taking possession of a tall Pine tree.  No, wait, maybe that was an osprey, not a hawk. (Ok, I am not good at identifying my birds.)  And there were deer keeping watch until I got too close. They fled, white tails bobbing in and out of the tall grasses.

Now I would like to tell you how I went out there and glided over the rough trails and hardly noticed the many hilly climbs.  I would like to write about how the beautiful blue sky and cool morning transported me to an “other body” experience, a runner’s high.   I do, after all, know that feeling.  Not on this day however.  My muscles and tendons were blasting a warning sound.  A little common sense deployed and I would have stopped the run much sooner than I did. (I did shorten it from 12.4 miles to 8.)  As things hurt more and more, my gait turned from a run to a hobble.  And while that certainly was no fun, I found myself stopping to take in my surroundings in a way I rarely do.  At times, I was stopping to rest and stretch and to let the beautiful day do its magic healing.  It was as if the pain was an excuse to stop and enjoy the serenity and beauty around me – something I too often take for granted.

One thing is for sure, on November 12, there will cries of misery and wonder as we navigate one of the prettiest and toughest courses anywhere.