Tampa's busy Gasparilla social calendar continues into the third week of February, when thousands of runners from all over the world invade the city streets of Tampa.
The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic has long been a destination for road racers, featuring a variety of distances to choose from; it's perfect for both advanced runners and casual weekend joggers.
This year will mark the 37th hosting of this popular event that is held several weeks after Tampa’s infamous Gasparilla Pirate Fest. The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic began in 1978 with a 5k and 10k and just over 3,200 runners. Today, it's grown to four races – a 5k, 8k, 15k and half marathon – with over 30,000 participants ranging in age from two to 92.
Thousands line up for the start of the Gasparilla Distance Classic — Photo courtesy of Gasparilla Distance Classic
Serious road racers can enter all four weekend races for a chance to win the Michelob Ultra Challenge. The Challenge is for those who really enjoy the pounding of the pavement, including participation in the 15K and 5K on Saturday and the half marathon and 8K on Sunday. That adds up to over 30 miles in two days!
If that’s too much for you, there are many other challenges to choose from, including corporate team and military divisions. The popular 5K gets the majority of the participants, with well over 12,000 runners. It's perfect for those who just want to be a part of the action!
There's even a Stroller Roll and Walk for parents looking to get their kids involved in healthy living even before they can walk.
Another race that's quickly growing in popularity is the half marathon, the second most popular distance, drawing just a little under 6,000 runners. Some feel the race is trending due to an increased number of people who are training for full marathons, but it could also be due to the prize purse of $40,000 that is paid out primarily to US winners of the half marathon.
All four races take you down beautiful and picturesque Bayshore Boulevard, with the half marathon taking you onto Davis Islands for a few miles before settling in for the final eight miles back on Bayshore.
The runners aren’t the only ones that get to enjoy the scene; there are plenty of viewing areas along the route, where you can cheer on your favorite runners. Also, be sure to visit the Health & Fitness Expo, held at the Tampa Convention Center.
This year, the Distance Classic takes place on Saturday, Feb. 21, and Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. More information about attending or entering races can be found on the event website. Registration is also conveniently available online, with fees starting at $30 for the 5K.