TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area has lost one of its prime movers. Millard Shumate, who founded the Bayshore Runners Club, died Wednesday of pneumonia. He was 86.
"He probably did more for running in the Tampa area than anyone ever has," said George McConnell, 78, who has run in all 32 Gasparilla Distance Classics. Mr. Shumate ran in the first 25 Gasparilla races, from 1978 to 2002.
Mr. Shumate also ran in the Boston Marathon three times and the New York Marathon twice. In 1985, at age 63, he won the Space Coast Marathon in Melbourne in the 60-64 age category.
Mr. Shumate frequently beat out younger competition — and he enjoyed it. "It's always nice to beat some of the kids," he told the Times in 1991.
By the early 1990s he had accumulated more than 600 trophies.
Dr. Ray Wunderlich, who ran with Mr. Shumate in the Gasparilla races and traveled with him to races around the state, said runners on both sides of Tampa Bay knew Mr. Shumate's name.
"He was good, I think, because he was industrious. He put in mega-miles, I'll tell you that," said Wunderlich, 79.
Mr. Shumate left an even bigger legacy as a promoter of running. He founded the Bayshore Runners Club in 1981 with a handful of other runners and watched its numbers grow to more than 300 before its demise. He organized scores of races in Hillsborough County.
His car was always stuffed with race paraphernalia: mile markers, registration forms, left-over T-shirts.
A native of West Virginia, Mr. Shumate served as an Air Force flight engineer for 22 years in places like Africa, India and China. In civilian life he worked as an air traffic controller.
He began running in his late 40s. For the first several months, his outfit consisted of slacks, tennis shoes and a polyester shirt.
On a family visit to Tampa in 1978, he ran in the first Gasparilla Distance Classic wearing walking shoes from K-Mart. He finished the 15k race in 72 minutes.
"Back then, I didn't know a 15k was 9.3 miles," Mr. Shumate said years later. "If I had known, I might not have done it."
With wife Rosalie, he later moved to Tampa and bought a home near Bayshore Boulevard, which he quickly turned into his personal running route. He had traded in his slacks for top-of-the-line running gear.
Mr. Shumate kept on running several years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. But he suffered increasing pain from angina and began to struggle. He was unable to finish a 5k Gasparilla run in 2002, and did not run again.
Ten days ago, Mrs. Shumate, 88, asked her husband if he wanted to watch the Gasparilla Distance Classic. He declined. If he wasn't running, he didn't want to watch, he said.
But each year he did attend a cross-country event sponsored by Robinson High School in his honor: the Millard Shumate Invitational.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.