4 races. 4 T-shirts. 5 freaking medals. 2 days.
Yes, you read that correctly. The 2017 Gasparilla Distance Classic is one of the most unique races in the world which includes a full slate of running events for runners at all levels including 4 races throughout the weekend: 15k and 5k on Saturday, followed by a half marathon and 8k on Sunday.
Runners can sign up for any individual race or they can participate in one of the “challenges” below:
• The Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus Challenge – 8k and 15k for a total of 14.2 miles
• The Michelob Ultra Amber Challenge – 5k, 15k and Half for a total of 25.5 miles
• The Michelob Ultra Challenge aka “The Grand Slam” – includes all four races (which Run4Papa participated in): 5k, 8k, 15k and Half for a total of 30.5 miles over two days!
Organized by the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association, over 650,000 runners have participated in this race dating back to 1978. With predawn race starts for the 15k and Half marathon, runners get a stunning sunrise during their morning runs.
I have never run alongside another runner whose goal wasn’t to PR (aka “personal record”), especially on a course like this one which is exceptionally flat and fast. While PR’ing is a fantastic goal, I genuinely preferred this weekend to focus on the race environment, run with family for the cause, collect an absurd amount of bling and eat plenty of carbs!
Below are my key takeaways from running the Michelob Ultra Challenge:
• Be friendly and open to conversation – between the race organizers and volunteers, to the runners and supporters, almost everyone I met was happy to be part of this event.
• Dress up – Tampa Bay is known as a major pirate town and the entire weekend revolves around this theme. If you love Halloween, this is the costume race weekend for you!
• Hydrate like crazy – the weather was hot, even early in the morning. The break between each race on Saturday and Sunday is enough to give even the most fit runners cramps.
• Everyone runs alongside the longest continuous sidewalk in the world – Bayshore Boulevard is a beautiful stretch with an open view of the scenic Hillsborough Bay over the runners’ shoulders in both directions. It is also home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk so you can impress your friends with this newly discovered tidbit of running information.
• Leave extra room in your suitcase – I never understood people’s obsession with medals until this weekend. I couldn’t help but love crossing the finish line after each race and receiving a NEW medal.
• The after party is a must – the post-race celebration is held near the finish line and features live bands, award ceremonies, plenty of beer and a chance to hang out with runners of all levels.
- The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic runs a world class event – With 30,000 runners, separate start lines and a common finish line, multiple waves, and plenty of water stations, the race organizers don’t miss a pirate beat from start to finish and everything in between.
Overall, this race venue offers everything for every type of runner. If you decide to participate in the 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic, make sure you have a creative running outfit, a neck that can support plenty of bling and a positive attitude to party like a pirate, argh!!!
To see more pictures from this race, click here
- April 30th – Oklahoma City Half Marathon (Oklahoma City, OK)
- May – The Flying Pig Half Marathon (Cincinnati, OH, 6th), Buffalo Half Marathon (Buffalo NY, 28th)
- June 3rd – Virginia Wine Country Half (Loundin County VA)
- July – Old Port Half Marathon (Portland Maine, 8th), Mad Half Marathon (Waitsfield, Vermont, 9th)
- Sept – Philadelphia Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon (16-17), Berlin Marathon (Berlin, Germany, 24th)
- October 15th – Detroit Press Press Half Marathon (International) Detroit/Canada International, MI
- November 4-5 – Savanah Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon (Savanah, GA)