Florida Road Races hosts a handful of races throughout Tampa Bay and I’ve had my eye on their events for a while. For one, their medals are always so beautiful and running a race in my backyard is always tempting.
This year was the 17th annual event and would include multiple distances- a 50K, marathon, halfathon (their terminology for a half marathon), 5-Miler, and 5K.
I absolutely love the 5 Mile distance. A bit more challenging than my usual 3 miles, but manageable for me to where I don’t truly feel like I’m dying. Not many races offer a 5 Mile (or 8K) distance, so I almost always jump at the chance to do one.
Packet pickup was easy peasy. I like that they offered several locations on both sides of the bay (both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties) for people to pickup their packets. Pickup included your bib number, tee, and I got some sort of nutrition bar and coupon- nothing glamorous in regards to goodie bags. The shirt was plain Jane and pales in comparison to the bling. Very “meh.”
Parking in Clearwater is never my favorite thing. You have to come early in order to find a parking spot close to the start/finish line- otherwise you’ll be driving around trying to find a spot and walking around once you park trying to find the start line. It is what it is. There’s parking, it is free on the weekends and that’s that.
Potties were plentiful, but boy were the lines long. I’m not certain if it was because the race start was delayed (more on that later) and so people were pulling in at the last minute needing to go or what, but it was crazy. People started coming out shouting “no toilet paper!” or “yes, there’s toilet paper!” and I was just crossing my fingers that I didn’t miss my start time. Madness at the potties, I tell you.
The start line was a bit congested. You are trying to run off in this very narrow path and everyone- regardless of distance- is starting together. You are so busy trying to get around slower runners or walkers while staying out of the way of elite runners and it is a bit chaotic until the road opens up more. I think that maybe they should consider staggering the start based on distance, but I’m no race director so I don’t know what else could’ve made it better.
The course is beautiful. You go over the Clearwater Memorial Bridge, run into Clearwater Beach- get a few peeks at the beach and the water- and then head back. The waves were fierce on this particular day- I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. It was definitely a sight to see! Click here to check out the course map.
I need to go off course for a second, though, and talk about the weather. The day before there were forecasts for rain, which isn’t anything to be afraid of in Florida, except that there was talk of lightning and tornadoes. There was a bit of confusion waiting to hear if the race would be delayed or not, but the race director did finally let everyone know that the race would be delayed by one-hour because according to forecasts the rain and tornado warning would all be gone by 8 am. I was a bag of nerves, because while I don’t mind running in the rain, I’m not tryna be swept off to Oz like Dorothy because of a tornado. Nope. I’m all set.
The rain passed, the tornado warnings were lifted, but the winds remained unforgiving. It was like nothing that I have ever run in! Check out the race director’s Facebook post the day after the race:
Y’all. 40 mph winds? I can’t even tell you how hard it was to keep my feet planted to the ground- especially when we were running over the bridge. I. Was. Terrified. (And exhilarated at the same time because I was conquering a HUGE anxiety/fear here- running on a bridge in high winds- who am I?) TWO tornadoes touched down in the area, y’all. Two. Look at those ominous clouds:
Mother Nature was trippin’ this day. But, hey! I lived to tell the tale, right? I digress.
The aid stations with the brave volunteers standing out there in the cold and wind were great. Water and gatorade for all! There were also ambulances visible throughout, just in case.
Upon crossing the finish line, runners received their beautiful medal (which is designed each time by the race director’s wife) and holy Batman so much food! I’ve never run in a race that had such a good spread, and y’all know I’m all about my food! First of all:
Beer. Hi, friend.
In addition to the beer they had water, chocolate milk, endurance ice pops (something like frozen gatorade), yogurt, brownies, other pastries, bananas and most importantly- PASTA. Damn good pasta, at that. I helped myself to some yummy Mich Ultra and pasta with meatballs. NOM. NOM. NOM.
Despite the terrible weather, I still managed to PR by two minutes (Woot, WOOT!), so I guess mother nature was on my side.
For my first race with Florida Road Races, I was highly impressed. The race director had some tough decisions to make due to the weather and he handled them with humility and grace. It is clear that he cares for his runners (the ultra and marathon had to be cancelled due to flooding) and wants to give them the best experience possible. I would definitely run with them again in the future.
Oh, and how could I forget- free race photos!!! Now you know I love that!
Distance: 5 miles
Finish Time: 01:01:20