Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 Gasparilla Half Marathon

by Meghann on February 23, 2014

arrrghhh… I ran for the booty at the Gasparilla Half Marathon this morning.


Yep. Coolest medal of all time. Makes that whole running 13.1 miles thing totally worth it, right?


The Gasparilla Distance Classic is a Tampa tradition. It’s a full weekend of events, starting with a 15k and 5K on Saturday and the half marathon and 8K on Sunday. There are also a few challenge options where you can run multiple races over both days. I’ve done the challenges twice (in 2009 I ran the “Bud Light Challenge” 15K,5K, & Half and in 2010 I was really crazy and did the “Michelob Ultra Challenge” 15K, 5K, & full marathon <- the last year they had the full)  and I ran “just” the half marathon in 2012. In 2013 I volunteered and this year I registered through a corporate team with my office. This year marks my fourth year running one of the Gasparilla races, making it the race I’ve run the most number of times.

The Gasparilla Distance Classic is also the largest race in the Tampa Bay area (drawing in close to 29,000 runners!) and has a great, huge expo to go with it. I had to work the expo this year, so I had a lot of time to enjoy it.


My sister and our friend, Amber, drove over from the east coast on Saturday to run the Gasparilla 8k on Sunday morning. We spent Saturday afternoon watching Frozen (still a great movie the second time around) and eating pizza. We were all in bed early in order to rest up for race day.

My alarm went off at 4:15am for the 6:00am race start (ouch!). Since Kelly and Amber’s race didn’t start until 9:00, they slept in a little and promised to meet me at the finish line. I made oatmeal and coffee, then headed to the start. The 20 minute drive to the start went quick and I was able to find (FREE!) parking in a neighborhood near Bayshore.


I made it to the start with about 20 minutes to spare, this gave me just enough time to wait in the mile long restroom line. It’s really ridiculous that despite having dozens upon dozens of porta potties, there never seems to be enough for the thousands of runners that need to go. I patiently waited and watched all that extra “spare” time dissolve. By the time I made it to the corrals, I was forced to start with the back of the pack.



The race started on time and I crossed the timing mat a few minutes after the gun went off.  The course takes you almost immediately over to Davis Island via a narrow bridge, which is always the worst part of the course. My first mile was definitely my slowest at 9:41 and it has a lot to do with that darn bridge and all the congestion.


I was angry when I saw that 9:41 pop-up. I wanted to at least get under 2:00 (practically my goal for every race) and I knew I had some ground to make it up after that first mile. Luckily the roads started to clear out and I was able to settle into a little more of a speedier pace. My next few miles were between 8:30 and 8:45.

We left Davis Island at mile 5 and started the long out and back stretch on Bayshore. We did not have the best race day conditions. It was hot (68 at the start) and felt like 100% humidity. The air was also thick with fog. It was a gray, nasty morning and not inspiring at all. The gray morning wouldn’t have been that bad if it was cold, but it wasn’t – it was hot.

We had a bit of headwind going out on Bayshore, which sucked. My stomach started acting funny just after mile 6 and I had to make a quick pit stop at a porta potty. I felt much better after that. I ate the first half of my pack of Gatorade chews around mile 7 and, since it was so hot, I made a conscious effort to take in a cup of Gatorade and water at each aide station. I saw a runner go down around mile 8 and I did not want that to be me.

We hit the turn around point just before mile 9, which meant we still had a 4 mile stretch back down Bayshore. Ugh. Not cool.

I saw a familiar runner up ahead and realized I was about to catch up with Meg. This was about the point I ran into her at Best Damn Race a couple of weeks ago so I told her we had to stop running into each other like this. I asked how she was doing and she said just as bad as the last one. She also swore that she was done with Florida and moving back up north where it was cool. I think I might just join her. This weather blew.

I ate the other half of my Gatorade chews and started pouring a cup of water on my head at every aide station. I only had a 5k to go, but it felt like so much longer.

I think this is the point where I should share my running playlist. Basically, it rocked. Usually I listen to audiobooks for my long runs, so it was a nice change to run to an upbeat, motivating playlist. I cranked the volume up at the start and had to stop myself from stopping to sing and dance on the course. It was also the perfect length, stopping just as I entered the finisher’s chute and the cheers from the crowds took over.


I was slowing down in the last half of the race and was getting nervous I wasn’t going to make my sub-2:00 goal. I kept checking my watch and doing quick math. I could make it, but it was going to be close.

I’d been going back and forth with a runner that had “Running in Memory of Mom” on the back of his shirt. On the bottom the dates read “11/20/1934 – 2/16/2014.” The date struck me because it meant he had only lost his mom the week before.  With about a mile to go I could hear him say, “Come on, Mom, we’ve got this.” He was fist pumping the air and my eyes began to tear up. He wasn’t just running this race for his mom, he was running the race with his mom as a final good-bye. The whole moment had me choking up, it was such moving moment.

My music cut out after the first set of bridges and the finish line began to come into focus. The crowds started to build up and I began the lookout for my sister and Amber. I spotted them to the right and laughed as Amber spotted me, but Kelly (who had the camera) began to point the camera behind me, having no clue I just passed.


She did eventually spot me and got a couple of quick shots.


I gave it my all in the end and am happy to report I finished under my goal.

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My fourth Gasparilla was done. I earned my booty!


I spotted Kelly and Amber and skipped the food at the end of the finisher’s chute to join them.


Isn’t my sister the cutest? I ordered the “Running for Two” shirt for her to wear for the 8K. She said she plans to wear it for every run for the rest of her pregnancy.


Kelly and Amber still had an hour to kill before their race so we sat on a bench and chilled for a while. Eventually we made our way to the corrals and I wished them luck.



While waiting for Kelly and Amber to finish, I had the pleasure of watching some super-fast friends ROCK the 8K.

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Kelly came in all smiles at 52:25


The finishers!


By then it had been two hours since I finished my race and about 5 hours since I had my oatmeal that morning. I was NOT in a good place and needed food ASAP. We headed to The Brunchery and Kelly and I split and order of Bluberry Pancakes and the Greek Omelet.


I. Ate. It. All. 🙂

I have one last half marathon to close out my  half marathon streak for 2014, Best Damn Race Orlando – I’m coming for you! 🙂







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