Melon Run keeps 3-mile tradition on 4th of July


Competitors take off at the start of the 35th annual Melon Run, a 3-mile road race around Westside Park on Thursday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.

For more than three decades, the Florida Track Club has ensured the distance of its annual three-mile Melon Run remains as much a Fourth of July staple as parades, cookouts and fireworks.

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Competitors take off at the start of the 35th annual Melon Run, a 3-mile road race around Westside Park on Thursday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

While 5K races are the most popular running competitions in the country, Gainesville-area runners have ditched the metric system each year since 1978 and joined together at Westside Park to keep the road race's use of customary units alive on Independence Day.

“I guess 35 years ago, the big thing was three miles, and so we haven't wanted to change history,” said race director Stephen Crawford. “The FTC does not support the metric system. We don't want a 5K; we want a three-mile run. This is America. This is July 4.”

With a field of 440 runners on hand Thursday morning, the Melon Run saw no break in tradition with its rolling, 4.8K course but did offer surprises at the finish line.

In a duel between former University of Florida long distance runners, Mike Hensley snapped Michael Anderson's streak of four straight Melon Run titles with a winning time of 14:57.69. Hensley, who finished second at last year's race, was able to find separation from Anderson (15:10.84) in the last 500 meters.

“Coming right down to the finish this year, I didn't let him have as much,” Hensley said. “We got to the top of the hill, and I figured I would go for it at that point. I was thinking it was last year all over again.”

Also making the podium was Michael Rosato, 24, who clocked a personal-record of 15:34.15. The former UF marching band member lost touch with Hensley, 27, and Anderson, 24, midway through the three-mile race, before seeing their final ascent on the backstretch.

Brandon Scott ran to a fourth-place result in 15:43.56 and was followed by P.K. Yonge's Garrett Westlake (16:17.72), who was the top finisher in the 15- to- 19-year-old division.

Dan Monteau, 49, placed eighth overall and claimed the men's Masters division for the third consecutive year with a time of 16:39.19.

“On this course it's kind of hilly,” Rosato said. “Downhill can kill you too, especially towards the end of the race. But there's not enough downhill to offset the last big climb, so that's what makes it tough.”

Along with a new men's champion, the Melon Run also crowned Danielle Kolb, 26, as a first-time women's winner.

After placing 27th overall with a time of 19:59.98, Kolb was followed across the line by 21-year-old Kacy Seynders (20:11.55). Claudia Smith, 56, claimed the women's Masters division in 22:19.05.

A music education graduate from UF, Kolb began training for 5Ks and half marathons last August after giving birth to her second child, Titus, whose first birthday is Sunday.

Knowing she had a chance to win her son's favorite fruit, Kolb gave her son an early birthday surprise when she took home one of the 150 watermelons supplied by Trenton's Douberly Farms for the race finishers.

“I was a clarinet player, not a runner,” said Kolb. “I would do it every now and again for fitness, but I never liked it until I started getting into it after I had my second baby. … Once I did my first race, I was addicted.”

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