By Chris Rodatz, RD
Boring. That is the only way to describe the 2019 Hellcat 50k race. No rainstorms, sweltering humidity, tripping over alligators, snakebites, wild hog chases or black bears trying to steal food from the aid stations. In other words, it was a perfect day for a Run through History with 68 runners signed up for the annual Hellcat 50k endurance run at the North Florida Military Museum in Green Cove Springs, Florida. The race is held at Reynolds Industrial Park which is the former Naval Air Station, Lee Field, in Green Cove Springs. The base was a major training area for pilots flying the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat Navy fighters in WWII. The race course runs along the perimeter road around the old airfield and takes runners through pristine, “old Florida” cypress swamps (think alligators), as well as an old WWII ammunition bunker.
The weather was perfect at a crisp 40 degrees in the morning, peaking in the low 60s in the afternoon. The 50k, which included five loops around the old base, was won by Joel Rich in an unbelievable 3:54:36, and Orange Park’s Mae Barker blazed across the finish line as first female in an amazing 4:39:46. The winners received a trophy consisting of a model Hellcat fighter and free shoes from Altra. Registered runners came from as far away as Nebraska, Virginia and North and South Carolina. Donna Jean Pohlman and Ronald Paquette traveled from Maine, and Ron was our oldest finisher at 77-years-old with a time of 8:23:36. It seems the Hellcat 50k has come of age and is attracting national attention. Each runner received a finishers belt buckle for their effort. After the race, the runners were fed hamburgers, brats and hot dogs, and toured the museum with friends and family free of charge to learn the history of the old base. Much thanks goes out to Reynolds Industrial Park for their support in putting on this race and hopefully, we will be able to have it again next year.