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Sports

Conditions ideal for final race

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 09:13 AM
TAMPA -

After all the times the Gasparilla Marathon featured difficult running conditions - everything from hot and humid to cold and windy - it seemed fitting the 10th and final running of the race Sunday met with almost perfect weather.

Temperatures were in the mid-40s for the 6 a.m. start in downtown Tampa and, unlike many cool days like that along Bayshore Boulevard and Davis Islands, the wind was not a serious factor.

But the weather was not the reason race director Susan Harmeling and the Gasparilla Distance Classic's board of directors decided to cancel the marathon. It was a result of what Harmeling called a "strain on city services" that led to the race's end.

"We are ever-mindful of what we're asking from the city of Tampa with an event that uses 26.2 miles of its streets," Harmeling said when the announcement was made to cancel the marathon. "In light of the current economic climate, where the city has to make budget cuts and reduce staff, we believe this decision is the right thing to do."

The city of Tampa is a co-sponsor of race weekend and provides services such as police, road barricades and waste management without charge.

Harmeling said no other major changes are being made to the race weekend in 2011, set for Feb. 26-27. The 15-kilometer and 5k races will take place Saturday and the half marathon will be staged the following day.

Final (big) numbers

Despite the downturn in the economy, Gasparilla's race weekend broke records.

Saturday's 15k pulled in 17,347 registrants, while the 15k had 4,240. By itself, the 15k total was not a record but when combined with the 5k, it eclipsed the single-day combined mark.

Sunday's total of 4,623 runners for the half marathon - an event that will stand alone Sunday next year - bettered the record of 4,511. And with a certain amount of sentimentality attached to the final running of the Gasparilla Marathon, that race drew a record total of 2,987.

Rising to the challenge

Some 220 brave souls signed up to compete in Gasparilla's 15k, 5k and half marathon - The Bud Light Challenge - and 179 even hardier types registered to do the 15k, 5k and marathon - the Michelob Ultra Challenge.

When the running shoes stopped pounding Sunday morning, it was 41-year-old Jon Williams of Coconut Grove who captured the Bud Light crown, while 48-year-old Kip Litton of Davison, Mich., won the Michelob Ultra title.

Williams started out by running the 15k in 53 minutes, 5 seconds, then did the 5k less than two hours later in 17:35. He came back Sunday morning and finished the half marathon in 1:20:24. All three of his times were respectable on their own - particularly for a masters (over 40) runner.

Litton, meanwhile, went 54:05 in the 15k, 17:33 in the 5k and cracked three hours in the marathon with his 2:57:56. Again, as a masters runner, those are some impressive marks. But in Litton's case, he's nearly in the grand masters (over 50) division.

Runners in these divisions not only received a finishers medal for each of their three races, but also a special medal for racing in one of the challenge divisions.

Bill Ward

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