Yesterday I ran the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon.
The Gasparilla Distance Classic got its start way back in 1978 and has been raising funds for charitable youth organizations ever since. Thousands of people come out to race in this event every year. As a matter of fact, it has gotten so huge that it is spread out over 2 days. Saturday was the 5k and 15k race and Sunday was the half marathon and 8K. They also have many challenges where you can run 2 or more races. You can read all about the Gasparilla Distance Classic here.
This is the first year that I had the opportunity to run this race and I was very excited about it. Not only because I had heard great things about it but because I was also running with my friend Cheryl. And because this race is well established there are a lot of really great runners who take part in it, which is always exciting.
Rain was a big worry this year but I should have been more worried about the ridiculous humidity because that was way more of an issue. My Garmin said 94% humidity but I thought the news said 96%, all I know is that it felt a bit sticky when I woke up that morning and it got worse before getting better.
Cheryl and I left for the race at 4:15 and made our way over to Tampa. We were worried about parking because it had been an issue at the expo but we found a spot fairly close to the start and it was free!
After visiting the bathroom in the nearby Walgreens we made our way to the start line. We had plenty of time to hang out and even visited the porta potties before the start.
The race started promptly at 6am and I was pretty excited. Unfortunately when you have thousands of runners lined up at the start, there tends to be a bottleneck. I could see Cheryl ahead of me for the first few miles but I was having a really rough time getting around anyone. It took over 10 minutes to run the first mile but sometime in the second mile I was able to get around some people and run that one in 8:56, somewhere around then I lost sight of Cheryl. The third mile was done in 9:05 but at this point I was starting to really feel the humidity.
I finished mile 4 in 9:12 and then I made my first water stop at about the 4.5 mile mark and I also had to stop at the porta potty which put mile 5 at 10:58. It was at that point I knew this wasn’t going to be a PR race for me but I wanted to enjoy every minute of it and that is exactly what I did. There were tons of people along the course cheering us on and the humidity seemed to ease up as the race went on.
I did see a runner fall somewhere around the mile 10 mark. He just sort of ran toward the side and passed out. I didn’t really know what to do but the paramedics were there within seconds and had oxygen on it him so I hope he was okay. Cheryl also saw a dog run out on the course and then into a lady, which knocked her down. I hope she was okay as well.
At mile 11 there was a group of kids that had been dropped off to cheer us on. They were going to be running later in the day and I wanted them to be super excited about it so I stopped to give every single one of them a high five if they wanted one and I even talked to a few of them, they were super sweet kids. I ended up finishing the race in 2:14:34 which isn’t my worst time but certainly not even close to a PR. I don’t want to lose sight of the most important thing which was that I had fun but I also realized that I need to make some changes in my training in order to get that sub 2 and get back to running better and smarter.
Overall, this was a great race to run. The course is awesome, crowd support was incredible, the after party was fun and I will definitely run it again next year as long as Cheryl runs it with me. (Cheryl did awesome, she finished in under 2, she’s speedy!) The only thing I’ll do different is train smarter so I can run it faster!
Here are the race particulars:
Location: Tampa, Florida
Host: The Gasparilla Distance Classic Association Tampa, Florida
Race Fee: Entry Fees
- $75 – Until January 10, 2014
- $85 – ONLINE ONLY January 11 – February 16, 2014
- $100 – Race Weekend Late Registration, February 21 & 22, 2014
*No race day registration was available but you could register at the expo.
*There are also several other distances and challenges that you could register for.
Packet Pickup: I picked up our packets at the expo on Friday. Parking was a bit horrific but some of that was due to rush hour and not being familiar with the parking garages in the area.
Parking for the race: We were worried that parking might be an issue but we found a spot soon after arriving and it was completely free and close to the race start.
Support Crew: There were several water stops but I think they could have had a few more before mile 7. I think there were maybe 3 up to that point and it was extremely humid early in the morning. I did get Gatorade chews sometime after mile 5 but I didn’t like them. Every water stop offered water and Gatorade and there was one about every mile after the half way point. The volunteers were plentiful and very nice.
Swag and Bling: There was a coupon in the bag we got for 15% off at Sports Authority and the Tshirt was pretty cool, the medal is also awesome. There were a few freebies at the expo but nothing spectacular.
After Party: Right after the race, there were people dressed up as pirates that you could take a picture with. There were also race photographers all over the place snapping photos. Everyone was extremely nice. I never saw the beer truck but I’m not a big drinker so I wasn’t really looking for it, however, they had tons of food from fruit cups to special k bars, yogurt, and Columbia restaurant provided food as well. I didn’t wait in line for the Columbia Restaurant fare because Cheryl and I both wanted to eat light and get home to take a shower.
Overall: I think this is a well-organized, large race that was tons of fun and I will definitely run it again. It does take a bit of time to get started once the horn blows as there are a lot of runners, including many elites; however it is a fast and flat, very scenic course.
What do you think about larger races? Do you like them or do you prefer smaller ones?