I LOVE THIS RACE! I can’t even say it enough.
Last year was my first year running it and it was my first “big” race. I had run one other race before- a smaller, local 5K in Ohio, so to run Gasparilla with thousands of people was stepping into the big leagues for me. I got so emotional as I walked towards the starting line this year, because for me, this is where it all started.
What. A. Difference. One. Year. Makes.
Last year I finished off the race at 1:06:23, which was great for me- I’d never run an 8K and my pace of 13:21 was such a win since I was still in my first year of truly running. Well, I’ll be damned. I toed that blue mat this year and whaddya know-
11:49- what. the heck? I was not expecting to be sub 1-hour at. all. AT ALL. I am not that girl…but I guess I am. Let’s get into the details.
Packet pickup was the same as last year. You have to find a parking garage to park at downtown and the get through the crowds to the convention center. The only mistake that I made this year was that I went on Saturday instead of Friday- well there were races going on most of Saturday morning, so a bunch of the roads were already blocked off. That was dumb. Note to self: Go after work next year, don’t be lazy. They did run a shuttle this year on Friday to help people with packet pickup so people wouldn’t have to fight Tampa traffic, but either way you have to pay to park, so- meh.
Parking in downtown Tampa is fine. There are lots of parking garages and just for you, the hike the rates from their normal hourly rates to $10 for the day. It’s lots of fun because when you are leaving and you put your little pay card in the machine, it shows you what you SHOULD HAVE paid for parking (usually less than $10 depending on how long you were there) and you get to leave knowing you gave the city some money. Whatevs.
Potties were plentiful and unlike last year, I didn’t encounter massive lines. I was pretty shocked. They have those bad boys spread out around the convention center, in front of the Publix by the water and lined up along the race route. So you should feel content knowing that you can pee and poo to your heart’s desire.
The start line was a bit congested. I kind of wanted to get up by the 11:00 minute mile pacer to see if I could keep up, but that was a no-go. I don’t really like lining up WAY early and then just standing around by myself- I usually kick back and wait until the time gets closer. If you want to run with a pacer at Gasparilla, that’s not a good move. Get yourself to the starting line as soon as you can so that you can line up with your pace group.
Once we set off, I found myself weaving in and out of some folks right at the beginning. It took a while to not feel like I was cramped up next to people. I’d also like to take this time to remind peeps that if you are going to stop to walk (which- I do, so no shame in your game) if you could raise your hand to let people know- that’d be great. JUST BECAUSE someone running, say… 8 mph could plow right into you, so… ya.
The course is reason enough to show up for Gasparilla every single time. Beautiful. Running along Bayshore Blvd. with the bay on one side and the beautiful houses of Bayshore on the other? Yes, please. It was HOT as all getout (the 8K started at 9:30 this year) but not as hot as last year because we had some clouds in the sky. Doesn’t matter. Still loved the course. I should’ve put on sunscreen knowing that it would be hot, but I forgot and I have the tank top tan line to prove it. Click here to see the course map.
The aid stations were there with water and gatorade for runners. I also saw EMT workers and officers along the course, which was actually great because I saw someone get carted off with an oxygen mask on. What I did miss this year was the water mister. Last year, near one of the aid stations, there was a water mister setup that you could run through (and let me tell you, I needed it). That was a small, but nice thing to have.
Upon crossing the finish line, runners received their medal, water, and a piece of paper towel… it was weird. Last year they had wet washcloths- I’m assuming they ran out or that just wasn’t in the budget for this year. I still wish that there was a better way to get your free beer and banana. The line to get into the finisher’s area was extremely long and not worth it. Wait in line to get a free beer and a banana in the hot sun with my 3 and 7 year old in tow isn’t worth it to me. I could’ve had my husband bring me a cold one and a clear cup, but we opted to go to brunch as a family (like we did last year) instead. So, this is the second year in a row I didn’t get any food from the race, but it’s all good. That’s not why I do it.
I’ll be there again next year. Maybe I’ll branch out and do a different race as well, but the 8K has my heart… I just love it. Great day. Great race.