Hellcat 50K: A Run Through History

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By Chris Rodatz, RD

The unseasonable heat was gone in mid-January and subsequently, over 50 runners toed the line for the sixth annual Hellcat 50K race at the Military Museum of North Florida in Green Cove Springs. The races (10k, 30k and 50k) are held on the site of the old Naval air station, Lee Field (now Reynolds Industrial Park), and commemorate the F6F Hellcat fighter of WWII fame.

The course covers the circumference of the old base and runs through an old WWII ammunition bunker—it is truly a run through history. The course is on both pavement and dirt trails, and portions go through cypress swamps, a natural habitat for both alligators and black bears. Registered runners traveled from as far away as Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, and the grand marshal who fired the starting gun was 94-year-old retired USMC Master Gunnery Sgt. George Smith, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

The first-place male was Joel Rich from Gainesville, FL, in a time of 3:59, and the first female was Lauren Mcmillen from Indiana in 5:02. After the race, runners and families were treated to burgers and brats and a free tour of the museum.

The Hellcat races are a fundraiser for the Military Museum and our thanks go out to all of our corporate sponsors and volunteers. Also, thanks to the folks at Reynolds Industrial Park who not only allowed us to put on the race, but also cleared the roads and trails for the runners. We had great community support for a great event.

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