Last year when I did this 50k, I thought it might be for the last time. Longtime race directors Peg and Gary Griffin were moving on to direct the Pine Run 20k in October (a very technical trail race and not likely to be on my calendar). Fortunately, Jay Silvanima and Nancy Stedman stepped up to take over the reins as co-race directors and I am so very glad they did.
This race was my very first ultra so it will always be dear to me. Since 2008 I have completed the race at 4 additional times, with a 50k PR of 7:03 in 20013. Past reviews of those races have appeared on this blog (see the archives for December 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014) so I won’t belabor the details here. Suffice it to say that there are 2 choices of distance – 50k and 50 miles – and runners and walkers have 10 hours to finish. The course is paved, completely flat, and easily followed. The 50k is 5 laps and the 50 miler 8 laps of the T-shaped course.
There is a lodge right next to the start and finish, plenty of parking with room to set up a personal aid station (I always bring a chair and drop bag), and real restrooms. Temps are usually cool or downright cold in the morning but may warm up rapidly. This year it was fairly moderate, with lows around 48 degrees and a high approaching 80. I began the race with 4 layers of clothes, including gloves, hat, and heavy jacket, but I quickly shed layers as I completed each lap. For the final two go-arounds, I was wearing just a short-sleeved shirt and crops.
People come back to do these races year after year, although there it is always great to see some new faces. This year I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite racers, including fellow walkers Mellody, Deb, and Vicki as well as runners Gary, Julie, and Carol. While I don’t remember the names of some of the other racers many of their faces are familiar to me, and they all are friendly and welcoming.
The hardest part of this race for me is the extremely long stretch before the first aid station and the return trip – it seems like those miles will never end. But then they do, and it is encouraging to only have to do 5 laps. I am not sure I could manage 8 laps, even if the finish time were extended another 5 hours, so kudos to those successful 50 miler participants who can do it in 10 hours. I crossed the finish line in 7:46 and received a porcelain ‘medal’ with a manatee etched on it, very appropriate because of the many manatees at the springs here.
Wakulla State Park is only about 30-45 minutes southeast of Tallahassee so it is an easy drive. For walkers desiring a first 50k, this is just about the perfect venue.