After spending recent years coaching participants throughout the race, Enoch Nadler decided to return to the course for the 41st Melon Run.
If Thursday’s race was any indication, Nadler seemingly hasn’t lost a step.
Nadler, 33, clocked an impressive 15:12 during the three-mile race to claim first place, while 20-year-old Calum McFetridge, the winner of the 2018 iteration of the Gainesville race, claimed second place with a time of 16:09. John Sansalone, 23, took home third place with a time of 16:33.
Hosted by the Florida Track Club, the Melon Run is a professionally certified race held annually on Independence Day at Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Park.
While Nadler, the owner and coach of Team Florida Track Club, has been a familiar face in recent years at the event, Thursday marked his return to the starting line.
“I’ve been out here four years in a row, but it’s the first time I’ve run it since 2005,” Nadler said. “The last three years I’ve just been out coaching, but today I decided to get out and mix it up a bit.”
Yet after crossing the finish line, Nadler got right back to coaching. He re-hydrated, changed into a fresh pair of tennis shoes and jogged up the hill to cheer on the other 357 racers braving the early morning heat and humidity.
“This race for myself, and for the team, is just about the community,” Nadler said. “Coming out, being part of the local running community.”
A well-known figure in Gainesville’s running community, Nadler’s first Melon Run came in 2000 as a freshman at Keystone Heights High School, and he would win the event in 2005 during the beginning of what would become a prolific cross country career at the University of Florida.
And, like several past winners, Nadler began the morning with arguably a more exhaustive run — for good reason, however.
“We’re eight months away from the Olympic Trials, so I’m running the Olympic marathon trials in Atlanta,” Nadler said. “I’m trying to run like 2:13, 2:14 for the marathon and hopefully finish top-10 to top-25 somewhere in there in the U.S.
“So this was just a training run. I ran eight miles here, then did the warm-up with the team. So I ran a good 13, 14 miles in there.”
Like Nadler, Meredith DeFranco is a member of the Florida Track Club, having been a member for “almost a decade”. An avid runner, DeFranco registered a 18:42 to become the first woman to finish Thursday’s race.
DeFranco, 35, said the weather was nicer than usual, and having a lighter load helped, too.
“Previously I would push a big stroller with my two sons in the race. It was a lot easier without the stroller,” DeFranco laughed.
Ultimately, however, the event wasn’t about competing and personal records — it was about the community.
“Always a good event. It’s a fun event for the family that supports the community of running,” DeFranco said. “And the Florida Track Club is a great way to get in shape and have a community of friends that will be life-long friends — to run with, exercise with, travel with and raise families with.”
The three-mile race, which preceded a kids’ fun run, provided runners and attendees with refreshments and watermelon. Complete results can be found at www.start2finishracemanagement.com.