Last week, mom and I participated in the super fun, two-day Gasparilla Distance Classic. Missed my recap of Day 1? Check it out here. After having tons of fun on Day 1, mom and I ate at our favorite downtown Tampa eatery, Taco Bus, and then headed to the hotel for an early night – me tucked in tight with my compression socks on. In the morning, the fog was heavy, humidity high, and temperatures warm. The dawn of the half marathon felt like inferno temperatures to this New Englander (real temperature at race start: 76 with 98% humidity).
The course for the Gasparilla Half Marathon is lovely. The first 5 miles are run on Davis Island, an exclusive enclave of modest homes with beautiful views of a harbor. Too bad the entire 5 miles on David Island are run in the dark… but there are cheering residents and plenty of on course entertainment. The entrance to and exit from Davis Island present the only real “hills” on the course. The sole hill is the bridge that transports runners to and from David Island. After Davis Island, the course heads straight down Bayshore Boulevard, with its stately homes and waterfront views. On half marathon morning, I couldn’t see much of anything. The haze from the humidity was so thick, it was difficult to see the scenery. Six or seven miles into the race I was sweating buckets and feeling quite overheated. In fact, in the professional pictures I could see rivers of sweat running down all my limbs. Not a cute look.
Thankfully, at around mile eight, the runners reach the turnaround and head back on Bayshore toward the finish line. I was delighted. The humidity was easing and the sun was coming out. Though the weather was warming up (to the high of 86, 85% humidity), the break in the humidity was a great help for me. I intentionally slowed my pace so that I could be prepared for the 5+3k that I would do with my mom immediately after finishing the half marathon. At the finish line I was handed an icy cold washcloth (immense joy!), a banana, a super cool pirate medal (!), and a bottle of water. I skipped the real food and looped around to get in line with mom for the 5+3k.
It was hot, hot, hot, but we were ready for 5 miles of fun. If I’m being honest, by the time the 5+3k started, I was sick of Bayshore Boulevard. Running along the same route 8 times in two days was a little tedious, but, of all the routes that I might run 8 times in a row, this is one that I would pick. It really is very pretty.
My legs were shot, but I had 5 more miles to go, so I clutched my little washcloth and set off for the staging corrals with mom. She walks really, really fast. I had to jog to keep up, and she set a blistering pace. In no time at all we were rounding the corner and heading back. I couldn’t believe our race weekend was coming to a close. Before I knew it, we were in the finish chute and handed medals, food, and drinks. It was over. I had so much fun that it seemed to be over in a flash. The finish chute was efficient and organized and I was shuffled along in my slightly delirious state. The finish line highlight was the rice and black beans from my favorite Spanish restaurant, Columbia. Yum!
All in all, mom and I had a wonderful time. The Gasparilla courses are beautiful, and the races are well organized and supported. The Gasparilla Distance Classic team really knows how to put on a great event. I recommend any, or all, of the races wholeheartedly.