Live in a climate where the leaves don’t change, and you depend on other clues that autumn has arrived.
Say, for example, the sound of an air conditioner shutting off, or a window being cracked open for the first time in months. Or, better yet, the sudden surge in runners hitting the road.
Debbie Voiles sees it running the Upper Tampa Bay Trail this time of year. She loves the rush of new people running and walking along the 7.5-mile nature path in preparation for the annual wave of weekend road races.
The Run Tampa club founder and running coach says this year area residents have a greater variety of road races from which to choose, including the more social themed races that value fun over speed. Between now and May there will be more than 70 races from Pasco to Sarasota counties, and all points in between.
Those opportunities and the less-humid, less-broiling weather make the invitation to train nearly irresistible to running newbies, she says.
“We have more races out there than ever before because of the mud runs and the color runs, where you really don’t have to train at all,” she says. “They’re great to introduce people to racing.”
But don’t get too cocky and end up injured, says Nan Klater, owner of Tampa’s Fitness Fun by Nan. Most of her clients aren’t runners, and she knows the temptation to do too much is great when the weather is cooler. A lot of folks will sign up for a race — especially one that’s for a charity — then do little real training to finish successfully, she says.
Your top priorities should be staying healthy and safe, Klater says. That means checking with a doctor before setting overly ambitious goals, wearing bright clothes on the roadway and investing in an appropriate and supportive pair of running shoes.
Also, don’t forget the golden rule of running: hydrate. Cooler temps don’t minimize its importance, Klater says.
“They think if it’s cool outside, you don’t have to drink as much. But you do,” she says.
Voiles is wary of popular “Couch to 5K” programs that devote eight weeks to pre-race training. “A tremendous number of [people who use them] get injured,” she says. Running rookies who are sedentary, overweight or deal with chronic health issues should dedicate up to six months to training to do it properly, she says.
Strength training, particularly of the core and legs, can be a huge help to any race regimen. “Have a strong body when you go out there,” says Klater, who trains at her Tampa studio and, this time of year, outside at the Joe Abrahams Fitness and Wellness Center at Ballast Point.
And don’t minimize the value of starting slow. Walk two to three miles every few days for about three weeks to gradually get your heart and knees ready.
Voiles says that will help transition to the popular walk/run interval style of race training that allows runners to build distance, stamina and speed with less stress on the body.
“It’s a great way to reduce impact,” she says. “It makes it safer for anybody to try.”
Running can be great year-round, Voiles says. If you can’t handle the heat during summer’s 90-degree days, get up earlier. As an alternative to summer running, she suggests hopping on a bicycle or jumping in a swimming pool with a kickboard to do some laps.
Or check out some of her favorite locations: the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Trout Creek Park and Lake Rogers Regional Park. They offer shade, bathrooms and water stations that make them great 365 days a year.
There’s really no excuse not to keep on trucking, she says.
Sunday: Hike for Hospice 5K, Land O’ Lakes; Freedom 5K, Lutz; Pump ’n Run 5K, Tampa
Friday: Movember Capitol Beer House 5K, Clearwater
Nov. 16: Trot Thru the Terrace 10K/5K, Temple Terrace; Fall Classic 5K, St. Petersburg; WC 5K Zombie Run, Wesley Chapel; Run 4 Smiles, Starkey Park, New Port Richey; Joshua 1:9 Freedom Run 5K, Al Lopez Park, Tampa; Run for the Stars 5K, Largo
Nov. 17: X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half Marathon, 5K, Lithia; Run in the Wild Half & Quarter Marathon, Plant City;
Nov. 23: Soaring Eagle 5K, Gadsden Park, Tampa; Strikes for Education 5K, the Forum, Tampa
Nov. 24: Women’s Half Marathon, St. Petersburg; Sports Kick 3-mile Challenge, Clearwater
Nov. 28: Wiregrass Wobble 5K, Wesley Chapel; Tampa Y Turkey Gobble, the Forum, Tampa; 5K Gobbler Family Fun Run, Starkey Park, New Port Richey
Nov. 30: Public Safety Organization Mud Run, Land ’O Lakes; Christina 5K, Lakeland
Dec. 1: Brandon Half Marathon; PAL Half Marathon, Sarasota
Dec. 7: Tampa Mud Race, East Bay Raceway Park, Tampa; Ties & Tennis Shoes 5K, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg; FACE 5K, St. Petersburg; Pinellas County Sheriff’s Run With the Stars, Fort DeSoto Park, St. Petersburg; Moving Towards a Cure 5K Run, Thonotosassa; Keystone Family Run 5K, Odessa; Mudzilla Mud Run 2, Plant City; Ugly Sweater 5K, Plant City; Lakeland 5K Color Vibe
Dec. 7 and 8: Pretty Muddy Women’s Mud Run, Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland
Dec. 8: Frenchy’s Tiki 5K/10K, Clearwater; Sheriff’s Jingle Bell Run 5K, New Port Richey
Dec. 13: Jingle Bell Run 5K, Bradenton
Dec. 14: Hillsborough River Half & Quarter Marathon, Thonotosassa; YMCA Mash 5K, John Chestnut Park, Palm Harbor; Sandy Claws Beach Run 5K, Siesta Key
Dec. 15: Flapjack 5K, Land O Lakes; Florida Holiday Halfathon, Madeira Beach
Dec. 21: Say No to Drugs Holiday Classic 5K/10K; Jingle Bell Run 5K, Tampa
Dec. 22: Manatee River 5 Mile, Palmetto
Jan. 4: Croom Zoom, Brooksville; Prostate Cancer 5K, Gulfport
Jan. 18: Long Run at the Ranch, Wesley Chapel; Komen Race for the Cure, Walgreens St. Petersburg Beach Classic, 5K/10K/Beach Run; Ringling Bridge Run 4-miler, Sarasota
Jan. 19: Walgreens St. Petersburg Beach Classic Half Marathon; Clearwater Marathon/Halfathon/5-Miler/5K Walk, Clearwater
Feb. 1: Best Damn Race 5K/10K/Half Marathon, Safety Harbor; The Great Bull Run, Dade City
Feb. 8 Strawberry Distance Challenge 5K/8K, Plant City; Hearts in Motion Twilight 5K, Plant City; Play Dirty 5K Run, Largo; World’s Fastest 5K, Derby Lane Greyhound Track, St. Petersburg
Feb. 22: Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K & 5K, downtown Tampa
Feb. 23: Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon & 8K, downtown Tampa
Mar. 1: Course of Hope 5K, Del Oro Park, Clearwater; Suncoast Hospice 4Kids Classic 5K, Largo
Mar. 22: Chasco Main Street Mile, New Port Richey
Mar. 23: Florida Beach Halfathon & 5K, Fort Desoto Park, St. Petersburg
Mar. 29: Break Through for Brain Tumors 5K, Al Lopez Park, Tampa
April 5: Faithful Wish 5K, Lakeland; Journey to a Cure 5K, Al Lopez Park, Tampa
April 19: Hare Racing Experience 5K, University of South Florida, Tampa
May 10: Miles for Moffitt 5-mile, 5K, 1-miler, USF, Tampa