After you've consumed the last sugar cookie and sworn once again to get in shape this year, consider a fitness event as your motivation. We've looked at the year ahead and found some challenging ways to raise your heart rate, and in some cases, raise money for a good cause at the same time. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne email@example.com
Gasparilla Distance Classic: One of Tampa's best known road races attracts elite runners and first-timers alike because runners can participate in several events: the 15K, the 5K run or walk and a Stroller Roll (9:50 a.m.). There are combo challenges like the 15K and 5K, and the half marathon and 5+3K. The Beck's Light Challenge lets you enter all but the 8K. The event is Feb. 26 in downtown Tampa. See tampabayrun.com.
Zoo Zoom (or Zoo Run Run in September): This early morning 5K run/walk on March 5 winds through Lowry Park Zoo and along Hillsborough River. In addition to a terrific view, you get admission to the zoo that day, a T-shirt and post-race refreshments. It's $25 advance, $27 after Feb. 20. Visit the zoo's website to download a registration form at lowryparkzoo.com. (813) 935-8552.
Trout Creek Trail Run: This March 6 event is a one-of-a-kind trail run in the countryside of Trout Creek Wilderness Park in Thonotosassa. You get gorgeous scenery for a challenging 5K and 15K trail run that winds through the pines, oak hammocks and lakes using single and double track trails in Trout Creek. For details see tamparaces.com/troutcreek.
Squiggy Classic Inline Weekend: The second weekend in March (March 11-13), wheels take over Flatwoods Wilderness Park in Wesley Chapel. The 7-mile paved loop road has always been popular with inline skaters, bicyclists and runners. The Squiggy events include a skate in the dark Friday night, time trials Saturday, a half marathon and a marathon 26.2-mile skate on Sunday. See squiggyclassicinline.com for details.
Fight for Air Climb: This American Lung Association fundraiser has racers climb from the basement to the 42nd floor of the Bank of America building, downtown Tampa's tallest building, on March 26. That's 914 stairs, but you go at your own pace, resting at every landing if you want, with water stations strategically located in the building. The winning time last year was 4 minutes 55 seconds, but the average is about 15 minutes. Each participate raises a minimum of $100. Don't have any stairs to climb? The bank building is open for training on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for registered participants. See altavistasports.com for event details.
2011 Relay For Life: The American Cancer Society holds this relay around the globe at schools, parks or stadiums, where teams camp out and have one team member walking or running a track for 24 hours "because cancer never sleeps." In Tampa Bay, it is held at various times and locations, such as April 8 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey or the big gathering April 29-30 at Safety Harbor Middle School. There's a kickoff party Jan. 19 at the Safety Harbor library for teams to learn more about that relay, but there are dozens of them around the region. To find a local relay see relayforlife.org/relay.
Sunset at the Pier Series: Fridays in June, July and August, a very popular summer race series draws a crowd of runners on Clearwater Beach. There's a 5K run at 7 p.m. and even a kids' 1-mile run for free. Do it every Friday and you accumulate series points to earn awards. See the West Florida Y Runners Club for details at wfyrc.com.
Times Turkey Trot: As traditional as stuffing on Thanksgiving Day, this annual run from Clearwater High School to the surrounding neighborhood is a hoot, with bands around every corner and lots of goodies when you finish in the stadium.