Camilla, Georgia chooses to celebrate its seasonal infestation of gnats with an annual Gnat Days festival, complete with parades, Gnat queens, and (of course) a 5K road race. But I couldn't imagine that Camilla's gnats were worse than anywhere else in the region. I remember being bothered by gnats at road races throughout the long southern summer. How could the gnats of Camilla swarm thicker, crawl up more nostrils, or get in more eyes than the gnats of Valdosta, Tallahassee, or Thomasville?
I still don't know how, but Camilla's insects outmatch those of any other town in all those categories or more. I won't pretend that you look down at your legs to see a grey-black crawling mass of winged insect horror, or that you'll see scenes like a man wearing a beard of honeybees, but made out of gnats instead. But even though they fall short of those spectacular levels, they are as awful as any simply annoying insect can be. If you stand still they will be crawling on every square inch of your surface. You'll feel their tiny legs tickling any skin that you dare to expose. You'll be constantly spitting, blowing, and blinking to keep them out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. If you stand still.
Which is as good a motive as any for more than 200 finishers of the 2012 Gnat Days 5K to keep moving. Stephen Robbins of Cairo, Georgia kept moving especially fast, winning the race in 17:51, nearly 150 meters ahead the runner-up, Chase Harris of Bainbridge, Georgia. Thomasville, Georgia master runner Mary Anne Grayson was the fastest woman in the race, placing sixth overall in 19:47. The first male master was Michael Gavre of Leesburg, Georgia, tenth overall in 20:35.
The race was scheduled for an evening start on Friday, 4 May 2012, possibly because the gnats swarm more thickly in the evening. Robbins led from the start, closely trailed in the early going by Nathan Norton of Americus, who had just finished his second year at Darton College in Albany. Chase Harris and Kyle Harris followed. It was Robbins, Norton, Harris, and Harris through the first mile, after which the race turned to wander through neighborhood streets during the second mile. That was when the lead vehicle took the runners off the course. Mary Anne Grayson came to the rescue, though. Grayson knew the course well, having won the Gnat Days women's title in both 2009 and 2010. Running in fifth, she shouted the leaders back onto the route, and the event was saved. Robbins got back out front, going on to win in 17:51. Chase Harris and Kyle Harris were second and third in 18:19 and 18:28. After running much of the race in second, Norton placed fourth in 18:58. Grayson collected her third Gnat Days women's championship with a 19:47. The second woman in as well as the second woman master was Tallahassee's Judy Alexander, 24th overall in 22:46.
Rain threatened but never fell on the over 200 runners in the 2012 Gnat Days 5K, quite a few more than the 130+ who finished the race in 2011. This year's race was billed as the 25th annual,and chances look good for it to grow even older--as sure as the gnats are to return, the Gnat Days 5K should be back in 2013. Maybe they'll have that course marking thing figured out by then.
Top Ten Men, 2012 Gnat Days 5K
- 17:51 ~ Stephen Robbins (M, 15) Cairo, GA.
- 18:19 ~ Chase Harris (M, 15) Bainbridge, GA.
- 18:28 ~ Kyle Harris (M, 17) Bainbridge, GA.
- 18:58 ~ Nathan Norton (M, 20) Americus, GA.
- 19:42 ~ Caleb Harris (M, 11) Bainbridge, GA.
- 20:15 ~ Phillip Wilbourn (M, 32) Blakely, GA.
- 20:16 ~ Samuel Cornwell (M, 15) Camilla, GA.
- 20:25 ~ Cody Carden (M, 17) Meigs, GA.
- 20:35 ~ Michael Gavre (M, 45) Leesburg, GA.
- 20:37 ~ Nicholas King (M, 24) Leesburg, GA.
Top Ten Women, 2012 Gnat Days 5K
- 19:47 ~ Mary Ann Grayson (F, 46) Thomasville, GA.
- 22:46 ~ Judy Alexander (F, 50) Tallahassee, FL.
- 23:45 ~ Wendy Hester (F, 47) Leesburg, GA.
- 25:06 ~ Jill Hope (F, 31) Tallahassee, FL.
- 25:17 ~ Julie Harris (F, 46) Bainbridge, GA.
- 26:17 ~ Ramsay Miller (F, 12) Leesburg, GA.
- 26:51 ~ Nancy Henry (F, 57) Donalsonville, GA.
- 27:23 ~ Joy Knop (F, 40) Cairo, GA.
- 27:38 ~ Melody Gunter (F, 49) Thomasville, GA.
- 27:51 ~ Elizabeth Williams (F, 30) Camilla, GA.
|Gnat Days 5K Champions, 2005 - 2012|
|4 May 2012||17:51 Stephen Robbins||19:47 Mary Anne Grayson|
|6 May 2011||17:35 Masked Avenger||23:53 Jenna Willingham|
|30 April 2010||17:36 Kyle Harris||19:59 Mary Anne Grayson|
|1 May 2009||17:39 Nathan Norton||19:51 Mary Anne Grayson|
|2 May 2008||18:12 Todd Smoot||22:35 Diane Johnson|
|4 May 2007||16:59 Todd Smoot||22:49 Diane Johnson|
|5 May 2006||17:27 Clint Watkins||22:02 Lori Rawlings|
|6 May 2005||17:06 Dr. Robert Feldman||21:12 Debbie Wittmer|
|1 May 2004|
|3 May 2003|
|14 May 1994|
|12 June 1993|
|13 June 1992|
|8 June 1991||15:33 Louis Floyd||18:20 Vikki Saga|
|9 June 1990|
|10 June 1989*|
|11 June 1988**||John Tuttle (14:14.7)||Carla Borovicka (16:28)|
- Complete results of the 2012 Gnat Days 5K
- More photos of the 2012 Gnat Days 5K
- 2011 story, "Avenger and Willingham in a cloud of...gnats"
- Find races not requiring insect repellent on the Trouble Afoot! calendar