By Sue Anger
The “Follow That Dream Parkway” was the path for the first section of the inaugural 116 mile Cross Florida Route 40 Romp on March 22 and 23, 2014. A section of State Road 40 was named in honor of the 1962 Elvis Presley movie that was filmed in the area. It is reported that rocker Tom Petty, whose uncle worked on the movie crew, became obsessed with rock and roll after seeing Elvis sing on set.
The 9 individual runners and 1 two-person relay team set off at the Gulf of Mexico west of Yankeetown, Florida, and headed east. Race Director Scott Maxwell resurrected this cross state run that had been run many years ago. There are few details on the old race or what course record had been set in the original version of the run. The race was run all on road. And it was an old school, no frills, race. There were no aid stations but check points every 20 miles. The volunteers at the 80 mile mark did provide hot food, a real bathroom and a place for runners and crew to rest at the Wild Cat Lake Recreation Area in the middle of the Ocala National Forest. The route varied from quiet country roads through the beautiful rolling horse country around Ocala, to busy 4 lane roads going through Ocala and the final section at Ormond Beach. The runners enjoyed some beautiful views of the marsh at the Gulf, the hills and pine forests of the middle of the State, and the beach at the Atlantic Ocean at the finish. At least 2 runners saw black bear, and manatee in the still waters alongside the road at the start provided a nice surprise early Saturday morning.
The temperatures were fine for running under good cloud cover Saturday morning but as the runners moved east the clouds gave way to bright sunshine and temperatures into the 80s. Several runners dropped in the heat of the day and several more called it a day as night fell and temperatures dropped into the upper 50s. None of the women dropped. The runners, crew and volunteers who were out all night were treated to a clear sky full of stars and other sparkly things above the Ocala National Forest. The Forest, established in 1908, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost national forest in the continental U.S. The runners ran through about 35 miles of forest including a portion of the total 610 square miles the Park covers.
The relay team of Jennifer Carvallo and Issie Sosa ran strong through the evening and finished early in the morning with a time of 19:14:09. The sole man standing through the night, George Barthelmes, had some rough hours and was passed by Stephanie Miller before the sun came up. George rallied and stayed in the race but he could not match the sub 8 minute miles he had run on Saturday morning and held on to finish second with a time of 29:35:30. Thank Goodness George (retired Army) had an equally manly crew (John Hingst, retired Navy) because apart from them is was all about the ladies.
Stephanie Miller established the Cross Florida Route 40 Romp course record with a time of 27:39:00. In the true ultra spirit, she was met at the finish at the Atlantic Ocean in Ormond Beach by all of the men who had to drop out the night before as well as a great group of volunteers and some confused Spring Breakers. RD Scott Maxwell waited in the surf to present Stephanie with what has become a cherished award at his races….original artwork commissioned for each race from fellow runner and artist Mylene Iwanowsky. Kathleen Wheeler was next across the line with a time of 31:32:32. She received her awards of original jewelry and enjoyed a soak in the Ocean after thanking her crew. The final finisher ended the race up with style. Dusty Hardman took a moment to change into her signature Wonder Woman outfit before cartwheeling her way across the finish line in a time of 32:55:06.
Apart from the original art given as prizes and finishers’ awards, Scott Maxwell is also established the tradition of exemplary volunteers. As was at Scott’s LOST118 race in February, the R40R had at least one 100-mile finisher at each check point and all of the volunteers had significant endurance sport experience.
Next year’s version may offer an uncrewed option and there is no doubt that the marks set by Stephanie Miller and Issie Sosa/Jennifer Carvallo will be in the sights of some road-loving runners.
Jennifer Carvallo (F47)/ Issie Sosa (M55) 19:14:09
1st Stephanie Miller F/52 27:39:00 1st Female
2nd George Barthelmes M/43 29:35:30 1st Male
3rd Kathleen Wheeler F/53 31:32:32
4th Dusty Hardman F/45 32:55:06