How a murder and a stabbing changed the way I think about running.

Hello, How are you today? I hope your week is off to a good start so far.

I took the day off from all exercise on Monday and sat on my ass while I caught up on some work. It was pretty nice actually but by this morning I was in exercise withdrawal and I had to go running. I ran 6.3 miles around my neighborhood. I am tweaking my training a bit and I’m hoping it’s going to help me with my future races. I actually wanted to run a little longer this morning but I didn’t have time because I had to leave almost an hour later than I normally do, but I’ll tell you why a bit later.

There is something really scary that I need to tell you about first.

Last night I decided to go to Walgreens at around 8:00pm. MacGyver was tired from working all day and didn’t feel like going so I hopped in the car and headed off. About 2 minutes after I left the driveway I spotted several police cars across the road and what looked like a CSI van. I got an eerie feeling instantly but I kept driving.

On the way to Walgreens I knew that something bad had happened. I knew in my mind that it was bad and I don’t know how to explain it. It was gut instinct or something, but I’m telling you, I just knew.

Anyway, I went to Walgreens and then made a quick stop at the Dollar Tree and headed back toward home. I didn’t think about what I had seen just 30 minutes earlier. I have a tendency to do that. I convince myself that I’m over-reacting and not to be a Drama Queen. So, I took another route home and I forgot all about it, I didn’t even mention it to MacGyver….. Until 10 O’clock that evening….

That’s when I logged on to the local news station to check the weather and saw a headline that grabbed my attention: Man turns himself in saying he killed mother

Uh, remember what I saw earlier on my way to Walgreens? Yeah, same address. Literally 2 blocks from my house and an area that is typically very safe, an area that I run in all the time and a house that I run by at least 4 or 5 times a week.

I have always run on that side of the street and in that part of the neighborhood because I assumed it was the safer area. How wrong I was. How horribly wrong. What does that say about my judgment?

This is two times in less than a month that something bad has happened where I often run. About two weeks ago a runner was stabbed in broad daylight on a route I often run near my house in Venice, by a 13-year-old boy! That neighborhood is also considered a very safe and quiet neighborhood.

I thought about this a lot last night and I think what’s really bothering me is the fact that I’ve never been scared. I have never once been alarmed by anything or anyone while out running, (other than the occasional animal) but I do have fears while running in other areas that I’m not familiar with. I think I’ve gotten comfortable in my familiarity both here and in Venice. Even when MacGyver and other family members tell me to be careful and make sure to be safe, I kind of shrug it off. I’ve always thought I couldn’t be any safer. I’m running close to home in areas where I know a lot of the neighbors and they know me.

So, this morning I left after the sun came up, almost an hour later than I normally leave and while I didn’t feel unsafe, I felt safer than I would have if I left when it was still dark outside. I almost always run alone so I’ve decided to adopt some safer tactics and adjust my schedule to accommodate them. It’s not something I planned on doing and may not even be necessary but I just feel better about it.

Because even though the murder may have been an isolated incident and the stabbing near Venice may have been a rogue attack by a disturbed teenager, I don’t feel as confident or carefree as I used to and I’m going to take precautions because I think it’s the smart thing to do and I hope that you’ll take precautions too. Please keep running but be safe.

Do you run alone? What precautions do you take to stay safe? Got any suggestions?

Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon Recap and Review

Yesterday I ran the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon.

Gasparilla Tshirt and Bib

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.

Gasparilla Distance half

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!

Gasparilla Distance Half Start

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.

After the Race

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.

Gasparilla Bling

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.

After the Gasparilla Half Marathon

Me and cheryl after the race

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?

The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Race Expo

Yesterday I drove to Tampa to the Public Gasparilla Distance Classic Expo to pick up my race bag and bib for the Half Marathon that I’m running on Sunday morning.

I planned on going early but the day got away from me and then MacGyver said he would come with me so we headed out around 3:00pm.

Gasparilla Race Expo

Yeah, we left at 3pm which means I missed THE Bart Yasso… 🙁 I did comb the entire expo looking for him but he was nowhere to be found. He probably hides from stalkers anyway, not that I’m a stalker…anywho…

One of the first things that you see when you enter the expo is a wall with the names of all the runners. People were crowded all around it trying to find their names.

The runners names

And it took some time but guess what I found:

My Name on Gasparilla runners wall

There were alot of exhibitors. Unfortunately, I didn’t really need anything and MacGyver was there to ensure I didn’t buy anything, (oh joy), but it was still fun to walk around and look at all the neat stuff.

Gasparilla Race Expo

Gasparilla Race Expo

Gasparilla Race Expo

Parking for the expo was kind of crazy and there was a ton of traffic in Tampa at the time we got there so MacGyver was in a hurry to head home. Since he wasn’t much of a ‘Trooper’ I was ‘force’d to find others:

Storm Troopers, may the force be with you!

We left around 5pm. There was a sweet little girl scout outside the expo selling cookies so I bought some silence from MacGyver for the ride home.

Tomorrow, I shall run for the booty….hopefully it will be a good race and I’ll be able to harness my Jedi Knight Powers….

Have a great weekend!

Do you love Star Wars? Have you seen all of the Star Wars movies, including the Prequels?