“Amazing, ecstatic, excited,” were just the first words out of her mouth moments after the runners left the starting line.
Borger, special events coordinator for the Belleair Recreation Department, was excited by the number of runners who took part.
“There may be some counting left to do, but we have at least 720 registered,” she said. “We have never, ever had that many before. In fact last year we had just over 400 registered.”
Borger feels the small town feel of the event and a huge after-party contributed to the increase. The after-party was free to the runners and included free food and beverages, including beer and wine. Many people took advantage of it. More than 700 funnel cakes were served – obviously a crowd favorite.
For the more elite runners the race itself was the attraction. The men’s winner was Larry Smart of Tampa who crossed the finish line in 16:52. His personal best is 16:30. He blamed the heat for his overall time; the heat and the pace he set early in the race.
“The first mile was a little fast,” he said. “I ran it in 5:10 and it should have been around 5:20. It took a little out of me for later in the race.”
As for the heat, the temperature was what non-runners would have called very pleasant, in the low 70’s with a cooling breeze. But runners normally prefer cooler days than that.
The women’s winner was Briana Whaley of Clearwater who finished third overall. Her time was 17:50, well behind her personal best of 16:50. Oddly she had hoped to run the 5K at around 18:20.
“I was using this as a training run,” she said. “I wanted to set and maintain a pace that I will be running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K in two weeks.”
Whaley won the women’s division of that race in each of the last two years, but after having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year, she had to stop running for several months. She isn’t sure how she’ll do in the Gasparilla this year, but it won’t be for not trying. Right after she crossed the finish line at the Belleair Sunset 5K, she kept going for another mile, all part of her training. She says she’s happy to be back running.
Other runners were happy to have completed the course and head for the after-party on the grounds adjacent to the Dimmitt Community Center. Gene Kane and Ali Showard were clearly pleased to have participated and were looking forward to the party.
Plans are already under way for next year’s event. What started as a fun run with a pancake breakfast 10 years ago has now blossomed into a fixture on the winter running circuit in the Tampa Bay area. The race had been a 10K, but has reverted to a 5K and a 1-mile fun run. That format will remain.
Borger is impressed with the fact that the runners came from all over Florida, several other states and even some from Canada.
“It is just so much fun. This is a fun event,” she said.