Column: From Russia, New Zealand to run in Palatka
The date: Saturday, May 28, 1994.
The place: The city of Palatka.
The event: The Floyd Four-Mile Run.
Until 2004, the county’s Memorial Day weekend highlight athletically took place in the streets of Palatka.
That event was the Floyd Four-Mile Road Race. The race would start at Tighlman House, run south and up the River Street hill to the Ravine Gardens where runners would run the park counterclockwise, having to deal with the tough end of the near circle coming up the challenging hill back through the parking lot and sprint downhill to the starting point.
The treat of the event, though, was its international appeal.
Yes – international. Who’d a-thunk that little ol’ Palatka would host runners for a four-mile run from countries including Russia and New Zealand. And when the race ended on this warm Saturday morning, the winners of the event came from those countries.
On the men’s side, the winner would be the New Zealander. Derek Froude blistered the field in coming in under 20 minutes, finishing in 19:56 – that’s 4:59 per mile. But Froude had others chasing him down the final straightaway to the Tilghman House start/finish line.
Jon Dennis from England would come across in second place, coming across in 20:11. Though from England, Dennis was working out in Tampa. The first Floridian to come across was Mark Kathman of Port Orange, who finished in 20:24. Ron Borsheim, a distance runner taking his chances on the “shorter” four-mile race, was fourth in 20:36.
The heat, though, did get to Borsheim.
“In this heat, it is hard on everyone,” he said after the race. “But the runners today were faster. I do like a longer run, but this was a good workout.”
The international flavor of a race that saw 154 runners start and 142 finish continued on the women’s side. In this case, it as Russian marathoner Irina Bogatcheva. Coming off winning the Cleveland Marathon, Bogatcheva set the race record for the women, coming across in 22:30.
Afterward, she stated the obvious. “It was very hot. Thank you.”
Continuing the international feel, New Zealander Barbara Moore – Froude’s wife – was less than a minute behind the Russian winner, coming in at 23:25. Ponte Vedra’s Lisa Emery was third in 24:17.
The winners for both the men’s and women’s races got $250, while second-place finishers scored $200 and the third-place finishers got $100 each.
The near 90-degree morning had taken a toll on the competitors, but in the end, they all found a way to charge their bodies through the ups and downs of the race. No, Florida isn’t known as even a hilly state, but it has effective enough hills to turn any race into a challenge.
“It was a unique experience to find such hills in this part of Florida,” Moore said after the race. “The Ravine Gardens are beautiful.”
There were division winners besides the overall top threes. For the male competition, Joseph Simmons was the 9-and-under winner (45:38), Robbie Yelvington took the 10-14 age group (24:17), Mark Mann was the 15-19 winner (24:03), John Bowden took the 20-24 age division (21:50), Jim Stark was the 25-29 winner (22:05), Borsheim was the 30-34 champ, John Czebe took the 35-39 division (23:21), John Phillipczak won 40-44 (26:24), Mike Wilhelm captured the 45-49 division (25:15), Jim Everett won at 50-54 (29:14), William Pons took the 55-59 division (28:30), Norman Wyner won the 60-64 division (29:14), Bob Carr took the 65-69 division (30:20) and Gene Watson was tops in 70-and-over (32:48).
For the female division, division champions were Heather Toth (10-14, 31:13), Christie Coward (15-19, 40:30), Mary Aman (20-24, 31:28), Denise Metzger (25-29, 24:31), Tawny Kern (30-34, 25:10), Victoria Flagg (35-39, 29:41), Maureen Barrett (40-44, 29:53), Peggy Whitlow (45-49, 26:35), Eldrelda Wyner (50-54, 27:18), Sharon Zile (55-59, 36:01), Audrey Jacobson (65-69, 40:37) and Elaine S. Geyer (70-and-up, 41:36).
More importantly, the 154 competitors were the most in the race’s history at that point.
Race sponsor Denny Floyd was enthused after the race finished.
“This race has the potential attract national and international quality athletes, but the local and area runners are the ones that bring each competition to this community,” he said. “I thank them for their support.”
For 10 more years, it brought the support.
From both the local runners and the international ones.
Mark Blumenthal is a writer for the Palatka Daily News. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @diabolicalmarky.