TAMPA — There was plenty of buzz surrounding Saturday’s 15K and 5K races, but many folks were fired up about today, when some blazing times might be laid down in the half marathon.
The buzz started building last fall when word got out that prize money would be offered up to Americans looking to make a qualifying time for the Olympic trials for the marathon. The buzz increased a few weeks ago when it was confirmed that $40,000 was being offered, with $10,000 going to the winners.
The field of world-class runners includes two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and three-time women’s qualifier Jen Rhimes and more than a dozen others who will be trying to meet Olympic trials qualifying standards for the marathon.
As has been the case in recent U.S. Olympic marathon trials, runners can achieve marathon qualifying standards by meeting certain times in the half marathon. For the men, they must finish a certified 13.1-mile course in 1 hour, 5 minutes or faster. On the women’s side, the trials qualifying standard is 1:15.
With the weather being a bit muggy, qualifying success might be close, but several are expected to make the cut.
Abdirahman, a native of Somalia who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, has a sizzling half marathon best of 1:00:29. He competed in the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics at 10,000 meters and has run the marathon in 2:08. Rhimes, who has competed in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon over three different Olympic Games, owns a half marathon personal record of 1:11:14 and a marathon PR of 2:29:32.
Another runner to watch is former Berkeley Prep and Stanford University star Rolf Steier, who has based his training in Oslo, Norway, while studying for his Ph.D. Like others in the field, he will be seeking to meet the trials standard after the qualifying window opened Aug. 1, 2013.
With more than 10,000 runners expected to flood into Tampa for today’s half marathon and 8K races, the total number of participants should exceed more than 30,000 for the weekend, breaking previous records.
On Saturday, 19,883 runners competed — 5,816 in the 15K and 14,067 in the 5K.
In the Gasparilla Distance Classic’s first year, 1978, there were 3,244 participants — 1,768 in the 5K and 1,476 in the 15K.
No stopping these guys
In the 36 years of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, six men — Lewis Harris (76), Rob Mason (68), George McConnell (83), Gus Mejia (75), Thomas Singletary (72) and Stuart Carrier (65) — have run in either the 15K or 5K races.
The oldest of the group, McConnell, finished the 5K in 48 minutes, 59 seconds, an average of 15:44 a mile.
Odds and ends
Former Bucs and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, 58, ran the 5K in 35 minutes, and wife Lauren Dungy ran the 15K in 2:04:37. … One of the most impressive performances belonged to 49-year-old Daniel Bergeson of Oldsmar, who finished the 5K in 17:14 for an average of 5:32 a mile. … On the other end of the scale, 14-year-old Alejandro Michel of Tampa finished the 5K in 17:57 for an average of 5:46 a mile.