Grand Prix XV Schedule
Click on underlined races for more details.

By David Yon

There are few things more talked about or anticipated than the GWTC Grand Prix series. Chasing those points is a bit like going after the holy grail. The grand prix committee has tried to provide a mix of races, places and experiences. The courses include first timers, old timers and steady friends. A brand-new year starts with everyone equal (or at least with zero points) and with optimism in their heart - or something like that. Here's an overview that hopefully will get you ready to run in 1999.

The first stop along the way is the Apalachicola River Bridge 10K on January 3. It is the first time for this race on the GP circuit. Yeah, it is a little bit of a drive, but I promise you it will be worth it. Hobson Fulmer has arranged for all sorts of post race seafood goodies and you won't find better scenery. There's a bridge (with a hill) and a quaint town that is bursting at the seams with hospitality. The 1:00 p.m. starting time gives everyone plenty of time to arrive. Or better yet, you can drive down to the coast the night before and experience the place where those Gulf Winds come ashore.

It is a flat out and back course, but I have watched many a person unscathed by the marathon distance humbled by the St. Marks 30K. "Average temperature" has no meaning here even on the new race day of February 6. One year the no-see'ums rule in 80 degree temperatures, while another year finds everyone huddled in their cars until minutes before the start to avoid the freezing temperatures blown by 30 mile an hour gusts. In either case or anywhere in between David and Judy Waters will still provide some of the best post race soup and chili anywhere and a great race experience. The St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, site of the race, is a very special piece of land that it is unsurpassed in its beauty. The gulf waters give way to the land here, but only grudgingly. The inlets and marshes teem with life and provide a home to a spectacular array of water fowl and birds, while the dykes are filled with deer and gator.

February 27 brings a delightful treat with the Run for the Cookies 5K. This well organized race is run on mostly flat ground near Tallahassee Community College. Tom Perkins and Jeanne O'Kon have figured out a great way to help the girl scouts. Every entrant gets a box of girl scout cookies and the opportunity to earn more through age group and overall awards. I have always noticed that some people run better in this race than any other they run all year. We call them Cookie Monsters.

Springtime 10K is one of GWTC's oldest races and is usually the area's biggest race. It is staged on the same day, March 27 this year, as Springtime Tallahassee. This means that downtown Tallahassee will be bustling with a parade that starts soon after the race ends and a big all day celebration. The race course that now includes permanent mile markers, thanks to Paul Hiers, is neither flat, nor fast, but it is full of character and history. Memories of this race often include flying downhill in the first mile at a pace that is twenty or thirty seconds too fast and then giving back the extra time as you climb the hills in miles two through four with more lactic acid in your muscles than oxygen in your lungs. The good news is that miles five and six offer respites and downhill so that you can finish with a smile on your face. One memory you will not have to relive is the uphill finish on Gaines Street. Instead the finish is now "down the hill" in front of the Department of Transportation. See (trails link ) for a detailed map.

The Palace Saloon 5K scheduled for April 17 begins at Messer Field, runs a big loop around the softball fields and finishes on Jackson Bluff Road at The Palace Saloon. This race, another of GWTC's oldest races, offers a great chance to run fast and socialize early. There is one hill near the end, but once you crest it there is a great downhill finish to the post race celebration at the Palace. Will Walker assures us this year's race will be one of the best ever. It is probably a mile and quarter between the start and the finish, so you have to plan a little. I recommend parking at the end and using the short jog to the start as your warm up.

Speaking of fast courses, the Bellevue 5K is as fast as they come. You won't find a hill and all of the turns are easy. Dave Watson promises this race's second time on the circuit will be another top notch event. The May 8 race starts at Bellevue Middle School and runs around Messer Fields.

New friends include the GWTC "Breakfast on the Track" Mile. Felton Wright found a way to bring some sanity to circular lunacy by sending the 101 finishers off in 4 or 5 heats. If you have never raced on a track, this is a great opportunity to discover what you have missed. If you think four laps is short, step on the track on August 14 and go for the points. Once you finish help yourself to a plate of pancakes for breakfast. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Maclay Track and Cross Country (state champions) programs.

The Tom Brown Bash 5 Miler on September 4 is not the place to go looking for a PR. However, if you want a great cross country experience jump in. This race which runs around the Tom Brown property covers all types of terrain. There is also a 2.5 mile run which has become the unofficial kick off to the high school cross country season.

The Women's Distance Festival 5K has fallen into the hands of Judi Kean and that has been a good thing. The course was moved to Indian Head acres last year and will be there again on October 2. There are some hills and turns, but the loop course runs through some pretty neighborhoods and offers the opportunity to run a reasonable time. This race benefits GWTC and the Women's Pavilion.

If you are looking for a PR don't go looking for the Pine Run 20K. But if you want some of the best experiences running has to offer then head to the International Paper Company experimental forest on October 9. International Paper Company has always put a lot into making this a class event. Will Walker will send you on trail and pavement through some beautiful woods, up and down some of the biggest hills around, and over some of the nastiest footing you will encounter all year. Afterwards though you can spread a blanket on the lawn, pour a draft, make a sandwich and listen to the music of Moondance. It just does not get any better.

The Wilderness Run 5K is on the Grand Prix circuit for the first time on November 6. The race will move to the Phipps property behind Forest Meadows this year. The course will be off road and through some beautiful forests. Gary Kenney has put together a monster day with a heavy emphasis on activities for kids. There's live music for adults as well. The race benefits Keep Tallahassee and Leon County Beautiful and the GWTC Chenoweth Fund.

Thanksgiving Day, November 25, is a smorgasbord of events and a day of celebrating the Tallahassee community. The Turkey Trot 10K and 15K races are both on the Grand Prix circuit again meaning there will be a lot of extra thought put into strategy. Bring food and a sharing attitude to these races to support the Shelter, Inc., and the Kent Vann Partners for Excellence School Awards program and GWTC.

The last race on this year's circuit is the GWTC 10 Mile Challenge on December 4. Dawn Brown will be directing this race for the second year and my guess is she has not flattened out any of the hills. The race is an out and back course that is a little bit tougher coming back than it is going out. It is a great way to finish an outstanding grand prix season.