TAMPA — It was another beautiful day of running down Bayshore Boulevard for Tampa’s Sara Petrick.
It’s been that way for pretty much all of the 27 years she’s been alive.
When she was a few months old, Sara was riding in a jogging stroller pushed by her father, Dan, who has run 88 marathons. Dan, in fact, ran so much that he wore out three jogging strollers before Sara was a toddler.
“But we didn’t have to pay for the last two because they had a lifetime warranty,” said Dan, who was there on Saturday, cheering on Sara, who flew down Bayshore to win the women’s portion of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K. “I’d have to say running is in Sara’s blood.”
On Saturday, that was strikingly apparent in her smile, beaming as she crossed the finish line in 55 minutes, 49 seconds, more than a minute ahead of runner-up Carly Thomas of Talllahassee.
Afterward, Petrick, who also won the Gasparilla 15K in 2012, took a stroll down memory lane, through her high school days at the Academy of the Holy Names (on Bayshore), the University of Florida, and into the deep challenges of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in 2012.
“(Qualifying for the Olympic Trials) was so mentally, psychologically and physically demanding that I don’t know if I will go for it again,” Petrick said. “But then again, I haven’t ruled anything out.”
In the next breath, she spoke of how much she loved running in the Olympic trials race in Houston.
“Everyone was wearing red, white and blue and waving flags and cheering, and I was so proud to be a part of it,” Petrick said. “When you’re running in it, you repeat that mantra to yourself, ‘Don’t waste this opportunity.’ It’s something I will always have.”
That’s why this morning Petrick will feel a little more thump in her heartbeat when she lines up to run the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic half marathon. Alongside her will be several of America’s fastest runners, who are vying for $40,000 in prize money with Olympic qualifying standards hanging in the balance.
“I know how much it means to train so hard and try to make the trials,” said Petrick, who qualified for the 2012 Olympic marathon trials with a time of 2:45:23. “It is intense.”
Petrick doesn’t know whether or not she will push the pace this morning, because she ran relatively hard on Saturday.
“You never know how you’re going to feel until you start running,” Petrick said. “I haven’t run back-to-back races like that before, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
One thing, at the very least, is certain: “I know I will enjoy it,” Petrick said. “I love running here.”