ZEPHYRHILLS — For the second year in a row, runners gathered at the Zephyrhills Train Depot on Saturday to revive a tradition that dates to their childhoods:
The Founders' Day 5K.
The mayor-elect, some City Council members and Miss Pasco all came out for the exercise and the chance to pay homage to the place they call home. Unlike any other 5K in the area, the Founders' Day race is dedicated solely to honoring the town and benefiting its local high school track team.
"My wife and I do a lot of running, and this is an event that was always around when I was a kid, so we thought we'd get it going again," race organizer Tim Linville said. "Last year was our first race that we ever organized, but it's doing well. Last year, we were able to donate $800 to the Zephyrhills track team, and this year we had a lot of sponsors, so we should be able to do the same."
The Founders' Day race is an old Zephyrhills tradition that lapsed some years back as interested waned. The YMCA kept it going for a few years, but it was Linville who has worked to re-establish the event as an annual tradition.
For the 53-year-old Zephyrhills native, being part of the Founder's Day festivities is an honor in itself. He hopes to grow and adapt the event in order to get to his ultimate goal of more than 100 runners.
"We've got a great facility to hold a race that has to do with Zephyrhills history here at the Train Depot, and in the future I'd like to tie in some of our aviation history as well," Linville said. "We can really develop this event because it's on Founders' Day and it's very specific to Zephyrhills."
Mayor-elect Danny Burgess, 26, who will graduate Friday from U.S. Army Reserves training, was among the runners Saturday. He said he was excited about the race becoming a marquee event for Zephyrhills.
"It's a reason for the community to get together in a fun and fit way, which is something I hope to see more of," Burgess said. "Events like this really build the spirit of people in the area. As for me, I may be young, but I am so sore from just finishing the military training that my expectations for myself in this race were really low."
Marty Monbarren first ran a Founders' Day race at age 8. The event has changed quite a bit from its original 1-mile run format, but the 46-year-old Zephyrhills native said Linville has done a great job putting the new race together.
"It was a lot of fun because it's very wide open with a lot of room to run," Monbarren said. "This is the fourth 5K I've done in the last three months, and I like this one because a couple of the others I did were really crowded and competitive. This was a lot more laid back and fun, they've done a really good job with bringing this back."