Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cover story

Why wait? It's the perfect time to train for a race

It's do or die time.

You've always talked about running a 5K race or a half marathon, but the holidays get in the way, and by the time you start asking friends about it, the summer heat sidelines your ambitions once again.

Now is the time to start if you're planning on running any races in the Tampa Bay area in the most comfortable part of the year, say local running coaches. Getting into a rhythm before the holidays will work twofold to help you maintain a fitness level through the roughest part of the year on diets and have you ready to run races in Florida's coolest months, from December to February.

"It is optimal to choose a race during the cooler season when an athlete new to the sport will not be battling the high temperatures as well as the challenges of racing," said Moms Who TRI running coach Kristen Hench, 36, of Valrico.

There's a lot to consider before you hit the street, so the earlier you start the better your chances of successfully completing your goal.

"Not all training plans are created equal, and a beginner's goal should be not only to finish, but to finish injury-free," said Michelle Schultz, 45, of St. Petersburg, director of USA Fit Tampa Bay — Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program.

"Hydrate, eat properly, get fitted for shoes that are the correct style for your gait, and as a Floridian, try to train in the coolest hours of the day."

Local running coaches all have different styles of training and motivation, but there are a few points they agree on when it comes to preparing to run this fall and winter.

See your doctor first — and then go to a running store to pick up the right shoes.

People might think they are healthy enough to begin a training program, but you still should consult your doctor to make sure there isn't something you've overlooked, said Tia Pettygrue, 47, of Tampa, a running coach and former ambassador of Black Girls Run! Tampa.

Pettygrue said a quick Internet search will yield several local running stores that will measure your feet and study your gait to find you the right shoes to start your runner's journey.

"A few of them even will let you exchange the shoes after you've run in them a couple of times if you don't like how they feel," she said.

Choose your distance and then your training program.

"Over the course of 17 years we've seen the proof: Anyone can race a 13.1 or 26.2 (mile race) with the proper training, even beginners," Schultz said. "We've seen countless people cross the half marathon finish line who had never run a step in their lives when training began, and we've seen people who train year after year qualify for the Boston Marathon, a dream they never thought possible. The mind achieves what the body believes."

Free training schedules abound on the Internet and usually fall into a couple of categories: routine and pace. The routine schedules such as the popular Hal Higdon Training Program recommend running specific distances four times a week with cross training and weight training built in during the week. With this free option, distances are set regardless of a runner's ability or schedule.

Some coaches recommend a training schedule based on your pace — a 10-minute mile, for example — that varies distance based on how fast you move. These can be a little harder to find, but a coach can help you construct the schedule that fits you.

Find encouragement.

"Whether it be a spouse, friend, parent or coach, find a person who will help hold you accountable to your goal and cheer you along the way," Hench said. "There will be days when you may not want to train, and these people will help remind you of your goal and reach the finish line."

Local running groups and clubs also can be a source of encouragement, and they can help beginners train more consistently.

"The advice for a runner training for their first half or full marathon is to find a few like-minded friends or a group to join," said Lisa "Trixie" Taylor, 41, of Clearwater, coach at GOAT FIT and Run Tampa. "Training for any distance race is much easier when you have folks to join you for those longer or more difficult training runs."

Choose the race that is right for you.

You could a run an organized race in the Tampa Bay area every weekend from Halloween to Easter if you set your mind to it, but that's probably inadvisable for beginners. Choosing the right race for you depends on a few factors, including fitness level, swag preferences, course preferences and length of time you're willing to train.

If you're starting this week for 5K races, you may want to consider a race in December. If the distance is farther, coaches say you should shoot for January or February.

Register for your race now.

Prices are only going to increase, and your resolve to train will diminish if you have no skin in the game, coaches say.

"Our local race directors put on phenomenal events in the bay area and there are several great races for beginners to choose from," Schultz said. "In general, though, the January and February distance courses tend to be my favorites because the courses are fast and flat with beautiful temperatures."

Contact Robbyn Mitchell at Follow @RMitchellTimes.

Try these, coaches say

Here are some coaches' recommendations for the best races for beginners in the Tampa Bay area.

KristEn Hench

The Gasparilla (Distance Classic) 5K, 8K and 10K all provide great distances for the new runner, as well as a flat and well-supported course. The St. Pete Beach Classic is a great option with a fun course and beach breezes and scenery.

Michelle Schultz

The races that stand out in that group are the St. Pete Beach Classic, the Clearwater Distance Classic and the Gasparilla Distance Classic. The St. Pete Beach Classic is a weekend celebration, featuring both a 5K and 10K (or duo) the first day, a bonfire beach party in the evening, and a half marathon the next day. The Clearwater Distance Classic, while only lasting one day, offers multiple race distances and

has an extended course time limit — a huge benefit for beginner runners and walkers. The Gasparilla Distance Classic attracts race runners and walkers from

all over the world and is known for its

great pirate-themed "booty" (medals

and swag).

Lisa Taylor

Miles for Moffitt is a great first race. It's big, well-supported, nice race swag and a huge celebration at the end recognizing both cancer survivors and those raising money to help find a cure.

Tia Pettygrue

The Sarasota Music Half Marathon is great. You run through the botanical garden and there is live music throughout the course and there is a postrace brunch, not like a banana and a beer, but a real, full brunch. I also recommend the Florida Road Races series because each one is awesome and the race directors put on four great events.

Pick a race and go

Here's a look at some of the races coming our way:

Oct. 25

FrankenFooter Half Marathon: This is a chip-timed race. Includes a finisher's medal, awards and a postrace party. Benefits BAYS Florida. 7 a.m. at Gill Dawg Marina, 5419 Treadway Drive, Port Richey. $85. Registration ends today. (813) 597-0360 or

Oct. 31

Florida Halloween Halfathon and 5K Race: Come in a costume, or wear mismatched clothes or orange and black. 7 a.m. at Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. $90-$100 for the half marathon, $45-$50 for the 5K. (727) 347-4440 or

Nov. 26

2015 Times Turkey Trot: There will be a variety of races. 7 a.m. at Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School, 540 S Hercules Ave. $15 and up. (727) 562-4700 or

Dec. 13

Florida Holiday Halfathon: Dress like Santa or one of his elves for this race, which begins in Madeira Beach and ends at Taylor Park in Largo. 7:05 a.m. at Madeira Beach City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive. $70, $40 ages 18 and younger. (727) 347-4440 or

Jan. 15-17, 2016

St. Pete Beach Classic: There will be a fun run, a half marathon and more, including beach parties, food and a bonfire. $20-$115.

Jan. 17

Clearwater Distance Classic: There will be four competitive races and a noncompetitive fitness walk, and the marathon is a Boston qualifier. 6:35 a.m. at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $20-$130. (727) 347-4440 or

Feb. 6

Best Damn Race Safety Harbor: This event features a 5K, 10K and half marathon. 6:45 a.m. at Safety Harbor Marina, 110 Veteran Memorial Lane. $25-$85.

Feb. 7

Sarasota Music Half Marathon: A portion of the course winds through the Selby Botanical Gardens. There will be beer and a brunch buffet. 7 a.m. at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $95 to $115.88 until Nov. 1.

Feb. 20-22

Gasparilla Distance Classic: There will be 5K, 8K, 15K and half marathon races over three days in downtown Tampa. Space is limited. $30 and up until Jan. 8.

March 6

Florida Beach Halfathon and 5K Race: The postrace celebration features a pasta party with vendors and live music. 7 a.m. at Fort De Soto Park's North Beach, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg. $40-$90.

April 10

Iron Girl Half Marathon and 5K: These races, aimed at women, will include an event that pairs mothers and daughters. 6:30 a.m. at Coachman Park, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $35-$125.

May 7

Miles for Moffitt: Events range from a 1-mile run-walk to the 15K Challenge. Registration fees and donations go toward research at the Moffitt Cancer Center. 7 a.m. at Alumni Drive near Bull Run Drive at the University of South Florida in Tampa, 4202 E Fowler Ave. Fees vary.

Wacky races

Running itself isn't fun enough for everyone, so check out these offbeat races to add incentive to your run.

Oct. 31

Battle Run: Heroes vs. Villains: Decide which you are and dress accordingly for this 1-mile or 5K run. Includes T-shirt and food. Benefits Directions for Living. 7:30 a.m. at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $20-$30 advance, $25-$35 day of. (727) 524-4464, ext. 1445.

Nov. 7

Keep Gulfport Weird Mini-Triathlon: Wear a funky or cool-looking costume for the 1-mile run, 2-mile bike ride and 100-yard swim. 7 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ, 5425 Gulfport Blvd. S, Gulfport. $10. (727) 893-1118 or

Nov. 14

The 5K Zombie Run: Be a zombie or a human running from one. 9 a.m. at Lake Park, 17302 N Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz. $35-$60.

Dec. 5

The Color Run 5K: Get pelted by colors and enjoy a dance party. 9 a.m. at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $35.90-$45 until Nov. 1.

Feb. 28, 2016

The Super Run 5K and 1K Fundraising Walk: Don a hero costume. Includes a medal, cape and awareness bracelet for the charity you supported. 8 a.m. at Al Lopez park, 4810 N Himes Ave., Tampa. $15-45.

March 12

Glowbash 5K Scavenger Hunt: Teams of runners race through downtown St. Petersburg with 11 clue pit stops along the way. 7 p.m. at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $25-$85. (623) 688-2013 or

Virtual races

A newer trend in racing allows runners to sign up, run wherever they want in a certain time period and receive the same medal or shirt other race finishers get. For a previous story on virtual races, visit For races near you, search "virtual races in the Tampa Bay area" online.

More races

To find additional races and other fitness activities, go to

Why wait? It's the perfect time to train for a race 10/14/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2015 6:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2016 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours