The Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race starts on North Second Avenue next to Heritage Park, and winds through downtown Rome, passing through the historic Between the Rivers district, down Broad Street, around Myrtle Hill, and across the footbridge at Bridge Pointe Plaza, showcasing Rome’s beautiful heritage. The associated 2-Mile Health Walk follows roughly the same route into the historic district, but takes a slightly different route around Clocktower Hill, leaving Broad Street at 3rd Avenue, and crossing the Oostanaula River via the Pedestrian Footbridge. The walk finishes on the scenic Riverwalk Path, just outside of Heritage Park. The event is managed by the Rome Runners Club, whose mission is to promote health and fitness for families and individuals of all ages and athletic abilities.
The Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race is an outgrowth of the Clocktower 5K Road Race, which was begun in 1986 by the Rome Jaycees as a fundraiser for the restoration of the City Clock. In 1995 the Rome Runners Club was approached by the Jaycees to assume full responsibility for the race, and the race was moved from an August date to November, but eventually returned to the third Saturday in August, and is held on this day every year.
Under the management of the Rome Runners Club, the race has had three race directors and has benefitted several charities. In 2006, in order to pay tribute to the late Gary Tillman, a downtown businessman, avid runner, Rome Exchange Club board member, and strong supporter of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, the Rome Runners Club renamed the event the Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race and added a 2-mile health walk. At the same time the Rome Runners Club formed a partnership with the Exchange Club of Rome, Historic Rome DDA, and Family Resource Center so that the member of DDA and the Exchange Club, Center staff, board, and supporters take an active role in the planning and execution of the event.
The race is advertised in running publications throughout the southeast, online at multiple running and fitness websites, and through a direct mailed race flyer to roughly 2000 runners in Georgia and the surrounding states. The race is one of the events on the Georgia Runner Grand Prix circuit (www.georgiarunner.com). The Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Series celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2009. Started in 1989 with just 34 running events, the race series has grown to over 400 races that take place throughout the state of Georgia. Started as a way to encourage runners to travel around the state, get fit and have fun participating in quality running events, while at the same time seeing some of the great tourist attractions and cities, it has now grown into an all out competition. At each Run and See Georgia Grand Prix event participants earn points for placing in their age group in 15 different age groups from 10 and under to 80 years and older. The runners accumulate points throughout the year, running as many Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Races as they can to earn the maximum number of points. In 2008, over 70,000 runners competed, earning awards for the leading point winners at the annual awards banquet and run on January 1, 2009. The winner for 2008 participated in over 150 running events and traveled over 25,000 mile traveling across Georgia.
There are six levels of sponsorship for the Tillman Clocktower event, from $500 to $5000. Depending upon the sponsorship level, sponsors are recognized in pre and post race publicity and on various banners, race numbers, etc. All sponsors of at least $750 are featured on the back of the tee-shirt which is distributed to all participants, sponsors, and volunteers.
The Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race and 2-Mile Health Walk is one of the major sources of funding for the Exchange Club Family Resource Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.