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South Tampa News

Tampa runners raise $17,000 for Boston Marathon charity


Published:   |   Updated: July 3, 2013 at 09:23 AM

Wills, the owner of Fit Niche Fitness Shoes and Apparel, hosted three charity 5K runs at his locations in South Tampa, New Tampa and Lakeland in honor of the victims. He recently sent off a check to the One Fund Boston charity for $17,431 after selling T-shirts at the events.

"We ran the first mile in silence as a tribute to the victims and people who lost their lives," he said, adding more than 300 people turned out for each of the 5K runs.

Wills said it's not unusual for runners to get involved in a cause.

"Almost all of the major races are done for charities," he said. "It's a theme in the running community to help others."

In addition to raising funds and competing, runners also have the chance to socialize with organized "fun runs."

Wills said runners meet at the Fit Niche stores in Hyde Park Village and Wesley Chapel's Wiregrass Mall at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays for 5K pleasure runs.

South Tampa has the "wine and chocolate" run that involves a scenic run along Bayshore Boulevard and concludes with chocolate samples at the City Street Sweets and wine specials at the Wine Exchange Bistro & Wine Bar in the same Hyde Park Village area.

Wesley Chapel has the "pub run" which means runners may gather and socialize at the Brass Tap, 2000 Piazza Ave., Wesley Chapel, after the run.

"We do it to create community around the store," he said.

Wills, who opened the original store in Lakeland seven years ago, said he just opened in Hyde Park Village at 722 South Village Circle six months ago. He opened the New Tampa location three years ago.

He said the Independent Running Retailers Association, a network of more than 200 running stores, promoted the charity run for Boston marathon victims throughout the country. Wills is a member on the IRRA board.

In addition to selling fitness shoes and apparel, Wills said his staff takes video of customers running so they can analyize the customers' gaits. Wills said better shoes are engineered for different types of gaits or the way a runner moves his or her feet.

Bryan Munjak, an associate who works at the Hyde Park running store, said during summer most people either get up early to run or wait until later in the evening.

And when it comes to evening runs, Munjak said the wine and chocolate runs are popular with runners as well as people who want to get out and walk.

"Bayshore is one of the most popular places to go run," Munjak said.

Mike Zwijacz, 21, a 2010 graduate of Newsome High School and a senior at the University of Tampa, said he enjoys the wine-and-chocolate 5K runs. A former member of the track and cross country teams for Newsome, Zwijacz said he typically runs 75 miles a week.

"The wine and chocolate run is a very relaxed atmosphere," Zwijacz said. "It's not meant to be a competitive run. It's to come out and enjoy the run. It's a good way to relieve stress."

Wills said he keeps 20 gallons of iced filtered water in front of his store for runners. He has also been kind enough to hold keys and phones for runners.

For more information on Fit Niche and their fun runs, call (863) 619-5390 or visit fitniche.com.

Lcone@tampatrib.com

(813) 731-2008

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