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More than a Fad - Palace Saloon 5K


David Yon, April 10, 2019

As I flip through the racing calendar, the April entries are strong evidence of the enduring nature of running races in Tallahassee. I quickly counted 17 events in the month of April, including the Palace Saloon 5K, the race one might say got things going in Tallahassee. It is easy to understand why the month of April is so popular if you are familiar with Tallahassee’s weather. Spring is probably most runners favorite time to run and April often produces great weather. April also usually features three of the area’s best races, Springtime 10K and 5K (the last day of March this year), the Palace Saloon 5K, and the Rose City 10K.  These three races stand out for their longevity and quality. 

April has also been a great time for new races to launch.  This past Saturday almost 300 runners finished the fourth running of the Hops and Half Shell 5K. Marketing for the race included the following information:  Explore the beauty and natural surroundings of the Wakulla Environmental Institute, including sink holes, pine scrub forests and a natural land bridge. The exciting course will take participants on various surfaces and over small obstacles. Perfect for trail runners and walkers alike and a great way to spend a morning in the woods. Race participants will also enjoy free delicious oysters farmed by the WEI's Oyster Aquaculture program and free local craft beer.”  (Thanks to Deep Brewing)

On the enduring side, this Saturday the Palace Saloon 5K has the spotlight, as it should. It is generally recognized as one of the first Gulf Winds Track Club races and the longest ongoing race in Tallahassee. It is also one of the largest in town exceeding 1000 finishers most years now.

The first Palace Saloon 5K was run on November 15, 1975.  A post-race summary stated: “We feel that there is a need for organized events in the Tallahassee area; because of this need, The Palace Saloon Race was created. Likewise, we urge you to continue to support events like this one in our area, whether through your financial help or through your actual participation in the runs.  We hope you have enjoyed our race this year.”  The entry fee was $2 and the race started at 10:00 at Natural Bridge.  136 places were awarded finish times with David Price and Janice Gage (now Hochstein) the winners. A few of the lead runners got some extra distance in when they reached the turnaround point before the volunteer did and just kept going. The observation that “there is a need for organized events in Tallahassee” was understated, but clearly correct.  Fortunately, well organized races are plentiful and the popularity of the Palace Saloon was much more than a “fad.”

Mark Priddy is the current race director for the Palace Saloon 5K.    This will be his second time directing the race and he reports the following:

Palace Saloon 5k race day is fast approaching. The Palace Saloon 5K is a regional draw for 5k runners. This race always attracts folks who know they can achieve record 5k results.  I actually believe a course record might be open to bragging rights this year.  

The Palace Saloon race is in fact noted for three things (at least).  It is an opportunity to run a fast 5K, it has one very ugly hill in the third mile, and there is music and beer at the end.

I like to talk trash with Mark Priddy about the Sickle Cell race being the “fastest course” in town. That is one of those things that is hard to prove.  But when you say the Palace Saloon 5K is the fastest race in town, there is a whole lot of empirical data to back it up.  Especially at the top. On the men’s side of the race, I counted 9 finishers with times under 15:00 minutes.  That elite club includes George West, Ken Misner, John Jennings, Tom Herron, David Keen, Rick Miller, Robin Rogers and Paul Waldron.

On the women’s side, the fastest time belongs to Breeda Willis (16:31).  Darien Andreu and Kristy McDermott were the only other women I could find under 17:00.

I have never seen results for 1977 or 1982.  George West won in 14:36 in 1976, he won again in 1977 (I think), but I don’t have a time, and he won in 1978 in the fastest time I could find 14:30 (and maybe the fastest time ever run in the race). It seems likely he ran sub 15 in 1977, but who knows. He could also have run below 15 in 1982 as well.  I don’t purport to have all of the sub 15 finishers, but I am guessing that total is more than all the other road 5K in town combined.

Of course, I can assure you that you don’t have to run fast to enjoy this race.   Saturday’s version, like most, will start by Messer Field and finish at the Palace Saloon.  There will be families, walkers and people looking to enjoy their morning.  But keep on eye on those winning times.  It is time for another fast finish and there are some fast people registered.

See list of Palace 5K winners (Please contact me if you have info on missing winners - david@radeylaw.com)