Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

THE EMERALD CITY LEPRECHAUN MARATHON

THE EMERALD CITY LEPRECHAUN MARATHON
The Early Years
                                   
     What makes someone want to get up early in the morning and run ten thousand
meters?  For some, it is the spirit of competition.  For others, it's the exhilaration. 
And, for many, it's the comradery, friendships and bonds that runners share.  That's
what Dublin physician Dr. J.Y. Jones had in his mind in 1977 when he orchestrated
the Emerald City Leprechaun Marathon race on the Super Saturday of the Dublin
Saint Patrick's Festival.

     A small crowd of runners, both amateur and semi-professionals, gathered at the
starting line.  Vicki Davis, Richard Johnson and Ann McCaskill fired the starter's
pistols and they were off toward the finish line.  There were actually two races, the
main10K marathon and a mini two-mile run.  Tom Childers, Mike Cadwell, and
Chris Thibodeau were there.  These guys ran marathons on a regular basis in the
Southeast.  Clint Harrelson, a former tackle and catcher for Dublin High School, was
there also.  Though catchers and tackles aren't generally known for their speed,
Harrelson desperately wanted to win the first marathon.  The outcome was never in
doubt from the start.  The three outsiders finished in the top three positions. 
Harrelson became the first Dubliner to cross the finish line with a respectable time
of 47 minutes and 48 seconds, just about ten minutes behind the race winner
Childers.   Tom Fagan, III, the youngest runner in the race, finished in 63 minutes. 
In the mini marathon, Linda Jones, wife of Dr. J.Y. Jones was the first woman to
finish.  Frank Adams, of Dublin, finished first with a time of 12 minutes and 44
seconds.

     Word of the new race began to spread and in 1978 scores of runners from around
the Southeast signed up to participate.   Tom Childers was back again as the first
seed.  He didn't disappoint.   Besting his previous year's mark by more than seven
minutes, Dr. Childers defeated Thomas Crom of North Carolina to garner his second
consecutive trophy, presented to him by former Dubliner and television and movie
star Cassie Yates, who was back in her hometown to serve as the grand marshal of
the parade.    Janice Gage, of Florida, was the first woman to finish. Lu Ann Durant
was the first local female runner to finish.  Back again was Harrelson whose time of
37:11 gave him the best time of a local racer.  Ironically, Harrelson's time in his
second effort would have won the previous year's race.  Jack Crofton, 64, and
Kenneth Gonzalez, 8, were the race's oldest and youngest participants.  Dr. Jones,
the race organizer, posted his best time to date.

     Larry Reeves, a former track star at Dublin, won the mini marathon in his first
attempt. Thirteen-year-old Randall Daniel, a seventh grader at Southwest Laurens
Elementary, came in second.    There was a distinguished man in the crowd. 
Someone handed him a running suit and some shoes and said "come on, run."  He
put his new clothes on and ran, finishing with a respectable time of 14:36, a mark
good enough to earn him the best time in the forty and over category.  Because he
was not a native of Laurens County, the man wasn't eligible to win the official award,
though Dr. Jones did present the man, a native of Houston County, with an official
t-shirt signifying that he, United States Senator Sam Nunn, had participated in the
second Leprechaun Mini-Marathon.  Emory Palmer, 8, and Dr. John Bell, 67, were
the youngest and oldest participants.  Edwina Wicker, a fourteen-year-old Dublin
student, was the fastest woman in the two-mile race.

     In 1979, the race went national when runners from more than fourteen states
joined to participate in the event.  Though two-time defending champion Childers
would not return as a result of an injury, race organizers and sponsor American
Color and Chemical Corporation secured the presence of Bill Rodgers and Jeff
Galloway.  Rodgers won both the Boston and New York Marathon races of 26. miles
four times each between 1975 and 1980.  At two times, this 1976 Olympic
marathoner  held the record for the fastest American in the marathon.  Galloway was
the founder of the legendary Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, which annually
attracted tens of thousand of runners.  

     It wasn't even close.  Rodgers dusted the field with a time of 3o minutes and 16
seconds  to set a course record.  Galloway, suffering with a nagging injury, failed to
challenge Rodgers and  finished tenth.  The first Dubliner to cross the finish line was
-you guessed it- Clint Harrelson, who improved his time again and led the local
runners for the third year in a row in a triumph for all former catchers and tackles. 
 Floridian Kris Powers led the ladies.  Chuck Briscoe, a six-year old, became the
youngest runner ever to finish the race.   Local notables in the race were Mickey
Register, a former All SEC University of Georgia baseballer, Dublin accountant and
long time runner Frank Seaton, Jr. and future congressman Dr. J. Roy Rowland, Jr. 

     In the mini marathon, Edwina Wicker led the females for the second consecutive
year.  Willie Reed overcame Larry Blash and former winner Larry Reeves to win the
trophy for the fastest male in the shorter race.  The youngest finisher was
eight-year-old Spence Mullis.  James Wilbanks, at the age of sixty, led all of the
runners in his age bracket.  The most conspicuous runner that day was Jim Walker,
who towered above the pack in both races. 

     The 1980 marathon was one of the most competitive ever.  With strong
competition from Olympic hopeful, Atlantan Benji Durden, Rodgers bested his own
course record by posting a 28 minute 57 second jaunt ahead of an even five hundred
finishers.   Ellison Goodall, a legendary Duke track star, was the fastest woman in the
race.  Jeff Kibler, of Dublin, broke Boyd Anderson's course record for the two-mile
run, finishing just ahead of Willie Reed and Ben Canady, the latter being on leave
from a tour of duty with the Army in Germany.  Edie Brantley outran most of the
males in the race to capture the women's crown in the mini marathon.

     In 1981, for the third year in a row, Bill Rodgers won the Leprechaun Marathon. 
Finishing thirty two seconds ahead of Louis Kenny and Ronnie Carroll, two full
blooded Irish runners, Rodgers yet again set another course record with a 28 minute
40 second mark, just four seconds behind Rodgers' career best in the 10K run. 
Ellison Goodall was once again the top female finisher in the pack.  Jeff Kibler was
the top local finisher in the 10K and for the second consecutive year, was first in the
two-mile run.  Edwina Wicker, a high school junior led all females in the
mini-marathon.  Once again, James Wilbanks and Jim Walker led the senior citizens
in the main race.

     Bill Rodgers' string of victories came to an end in 1982, when he was defeated by
Dean Matthews in a field of world class runners in stifling hot weather.  Ellison
Goodall captured her third straight women's championship.  Kibler captured the
mini-marathon for the third straight year and was the top local finisher in the 10K. 
Ramona O'neal, of East Laurens High School, won the two-mile race among females.

     Dean Matthews won his second straight trophy in 1983 and broke Bill Rodgers'
course record with a 6.2 mile run of 28 minutes and 33 seconds.  Francie
Larrieu-Lutz, an Olympic runner, US Champion and member of the Track and Field
Hall of Fame, was the fastest female in the race.  Larry Dutwiler and Edwina Wicker
won the two-mile run.

     The all time course record of 28 minutes 4 seconds is held by Jim Cooper, a world
class runner, who won the all the races from 1984 to 1989.  John Tuttle, a 1984
Olympian, won nine consecutive races after that.  Joan Nesbitt holds the record for
women with a 32 minute 45 second mark in 1988.  Sherman Eller and Kathy
Woodard hold the record for the local runners.     

     In the early years of the Leprechaun Marathon, Dublin hosted some of the best
long distance runners across the country and Europe.   Though the numbers are
down, the race is still held on the morning of Super Saturday and it remains a
testament to the dedication of the race's founders and participants to keep running,
running for the record and running just for the fun of it.  For more information, go
to www.leprechaun.active.com/history

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