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Running events offer way to attract nice folks to Brooksville

Really, you don't have to worry about what to do with your car keys when you show up at a 5K. Just throw them under the seat. That's how honest runners are.

After the race, you can recount every detail of your old marathons without watching eyes glaze over. That's because you're talking to people dying to tell you about their old marathons.

And who else will join you in a heaping plate of Joe "Papa Joe" Giarratana's baked ziti at 8:30 a.m.? Only runners, because we deserve it, and maybe a couple of doughnuts, too.

Yep, it was nice to be in the company of runners again, and even nicer to be in the company of a lot of runners at Saturday's Run for New Beginnings 5K in downtown Brooksville. More than 500 of them registered for the first-time event. Along with sponsors' donations, racers' entry fees raised nearly $30,000 for the designated charity, the New Beginnings Youth Shelter, a Brooksville haven for teenagers who need to get away from troubled families.

The race was held a week after the Brooksville Cycling Classic, meaning that for two straight Saturdays, downtown has been filled with fit and generally well-heeled folks. I'll focus on the running race because it was the one not organized by my wife and because, supposedly, it's the kind of event that can no longer make it in Brooksville.

There are too many other, competing races around, according to organizers of the Flatlanders Challenge, which has struggled with small fields for years. The city wasn't always supportive of the race. Runners from Tampa and St. Petersburg don't want to drive all the way up to Brooksville.

"I was told it wouldn't happen," said Katie Borremans, a client adviser for SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast and the race director.

It can happen, of course, if organizers …

Get started early. Borremans starting thinking about it more than a year ago after running in a successful fundraising road race in Pasco County. By early last year, she was pitching the idea to leaders of the two main sponsors — Jim Kimbrough of SunTrust and Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Work with big organizations. It helped that Kimbrough is Borremans' boss and that Nienhuis is on the board of Youth and Family Alternatives, the nonprofit organization that runs New Beginnings. Both SunTrust and the Sheriff's Offiice donated $5,000, the latter's share coming from seized drug money. And their large pools of employees were rich recruitment grounds for runners and volunteers.

Involve other community groups. Borremans enlisted the help of the Brooksville Rotary Club, which posted volunteers at every corner.

Market the race intelligently. Borremans set up a Facebook page and made sure news of the race was posted on running websites. This helped draw large numbers of runners from Tampa, she said, a few of whom compared the historic charm of Brooksville to Savannah, Ga.

So, maybe they need to get out more. But the point is, events like this present the best of the city — brick streets, historic homes — to people who might drop a few bucks in town before leaving and even more if they come back for a visit.

Fortunately, current city leaders realize this. Certainly, they've come a long way from 1999, when a City Council member was so ticked off by the minor inconvenience caused by passing runners, he signed a petition that helped to briefly force Flatlanders out of town.

For a glimpse of what kind of people those runners are, check out a 2011 survey from Running USA: 77.2 percent of runners have a college diploma — compared to 10.9 percent of Hernando residents, according to the Census Bureau — and more than 72 percent have household incomes of $75,000 or more.

That doesn't necessarily make them good people, of course, and this isn't one of the runners' traits the survey measures. But I suspect very few of them are car thieves.

Running events offer way to attract nice folks to Brooksville 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:12pm]
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