The Tallahassee Marathon began in 1975 with just two participants. From there, it has grown to a first-class event showcasing Florida’s capital city like no other race. The Tallahassee Marathon is an all-volunteer event organized by the Gulf Winds Track Club, a local non-profit dedicated to advancing the sport of running, whether for competition, physical fitness, or pleasure.

More about how we chose our 2024 logo and shirt design:

2024 is Tallahassee’s bicentennial, and to help celebrate, the Marathon used the Tallahassee prime meridian marker located in Cascades Park—one of the landmarks on the Marathon and Half Marathon course—as the race artwork. Designer Annemarie Chin worked with GWTC to combine the historical marker with a color palette that captures the beauty of our city’s sunrises and sunsets. We’re excited to spotlight this cool piece of Tallahassee’s history.

Meridian marker at Cascades Park, Tallahassee, FL

Logo and shirt design by: Annemarie Chin

1982 - Leitch Wright
1984 - Donna Miller
1986 - Steve Barraco
1987 - Michael Stokes

i beat cancer
Adams Street
Tallahassee - Kleeman Plaza

Meridian and Marathon

Written by: Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere

In 490 BC the Greeks and Persians fought the battle of Marathon. The stories say Pheidippides ran twenty-five miles from Marathon to Athens, announcing the Greek victory before dying of exhaustion. He ran 300 miles the week before, which is a lesson in the importance of tapering before a marathon.

Quite some time after the battle, in 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the United States. Just as most runners would not enter a race without a defined course, potential Florida landowners of the time would have not been inclined to buy land in a territory without clear property boundaries. Fortunately, the United States had already developed the Public Land Survey System. As marathon courses are divided into miles, this system divides the land into six-mile squares called townships. Each township is divided into 36 sections of one-mile squares. While it is unlikely that anyone has done this, there could be a 36-mile township race to commemorate this system. 

Just as a race director needs to pick a starting point from which to measure a marathon, those in charge of dividing Florida needed a starting point. This point, known as a prime meridian, was selected in 1824. As the Surveyor General Robert Butler and the Territorial Governor William P. Duval were not available, Territorial Secretary George Walton selected the location, choosing a spot in Tallahassee. Tallahassee became the capital of Florida that same year. There is an unverified story that the stone intended to mark the prime meridian fell off the wagon about 200 yards short of the intended location. As the stone proved too heavy to lift, it was simply left on the spot—which became the prime meridian. Like many good tales, it is better than the truth (which is that the spot was most likely originally marked by a wooden stake). 

While Florida was ceded by Spain, the prime meridian and Tallahassee also have a French connection. In repayment for his service in the Revolutionary War, Marquis de LaFayette was given a township of land in Florida. LaFayette’s connection to Tallahassee endures in the form of LaFayette Park, LaFayette Street, LaFayette Oaks, and Lake LaFayette. While LaFayette never lived in Florida, his friend Charles Louis Napoleon Achille Murat did. Bellevue Plantation, the home of his wife Catherine Willis Gray Murat, still stands and can be visited at the Tallahassee Museum. 

Despite its historical importance, the prime meridian seems to have been largely forgotten until 1891, when the City Commission of Tallahassee asked the General Land Office for a monument to mark it. While the surveyor John Cook marked the spot, the monument would not be erected for many years.

In 1896 the first Olympic marathon took place to commemorate the famous run. That marathon was about 25 miles long, which was the standard until 1908, when it was increased to 26.2 miles. According to marathon lore, the change was at the behest of Queen Alexandra—she wanted the race to start at Windsor Castle and end at the royal box in the stadium. In 1921 this became the official marathon length and is still the distance run today.  Four years later, in 1925, that the Florida legislature finally had a monument erected to mark the prime meridian.

In 1971, the presence of the prime meridian marker resulted in Cascades Park’s being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park closed shortly afterwards, but the first Tallahassee Marathon took place in 1975 (with two participants).

Cascades Park was reconstructed and reopened in 2014 with an amphitheater, trails, and even a waterfall. The park is also a popular location for races, including the Tallahassee Marathon, Firecracker 5K and 1-Mile Sparkler Run. As part of the reconstruction, the old meridian marker was replaced in 2013 with a brass plate embedded in a beautiful granite map of the state. 2024 marks the bicentennial of both Florida’s prime meridian and the city of Tallahassee becoming the capital of the state. There is, of course, no better way to celebrate than running the Tallahassee Marathon.