Each year, I try to check off a few items on my running bucket list. The Gasparilla Half Marathon has been on that list for quite some time. Not only is a trip to warm, sunny Tampa in February welcome, but the post-race food is from The Columbia Restaurant, a long-time Strong family favorite. Why hadn’t I done this race sooner??
My cousin, Janelle, lives nearby and was up for running the race and so was my sister, Sabrina. Sabrina and I rented a cheap Airbnb in Ybor City, just a few blocks (in the wrong direction) from the original Columbia restaurant. It wasn’t our best decision, but it was fine.
We spent Saturday sampling food and shopping at the race expo, which was pretty typical, before heading to the Yankees spring training game, an early dinner and bedtime.
The next morning, we were up bright and early. Except it was still dark. I hadn’t ever run a race on this side of the time change, so the first half of the race was in the dark. I don’t mind running in the dark, but usually I have the appropriate lights so I can see potholes and such. If you run this race, consider a light! The first half of the race was in a residential area on Harbor Island. It started getting light as I turned off the island and onto Bayshore Drive. Watching the sunrise over the bay was a highlight of this race! It was so pretty. But it was so darn hot and humid too! There was no shade at all along the course. In addition to lights, take sunglasses because the heat, humidity, and brightness all arrived with the sun. This is a hard adjustment to make when you’ve been training in NC winter weather. Around mile 9, I noticed Meb standing in the middle of the street cheering runners on, so I ran right up to him and gave him a high five. This made my race, which was otherwise meh. I finished the race, collected my medal, took my picture with some pirates, and then returned to the finish line to cheer on my sister and cousin. We grabbed our Columbia food (for the record, this is not what you want to eat following a hot and humid race) drank the obligatory post race beer, and then headed away from the festivities for a brunch with Janelle’s family. We’d have to wait until dinner that night for the real Columbia food.
This year’s race is February 24. Are you running? Let us know what you think!