TAMPA — Sunday, apparently, was the day to break records at the Gasparilla Distance Classic.
Tampa's Elias Gonzalez set a Gasparilla course mark to win the men's half-marathon in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 9 seconds.
Melbourne's Jessica Crate won the women's half-marathon, also in course record time, 1:20:06.
Even Jefferson the Dog (Peter Donato) got in on the action, establishing a Guinness world record by running the half-marathon in 1:59:14 to better the mark of two hours while wearing a 25-pound mascot costume.
Gonzalez, a 34-year-old graduate of the University of Tampa, placed seventh Saturday in the Gasparilla 15K. During Sunday's half-marathon, he ran unchallenged over the 13.1-mile course. A two-time Gasparilla 15K champion (2005, 2006), Gonzalez shaved 38 seconds off the previous half-marathon course record set last year by Orlando's Steve Curley.
"I didn't know I had a chance to break (the record)," Gonzalez said. "That was impressive."
Gonzalez was followed across the finish line more than a minute later by New Jersey's Hector Rivera, who was second in 1:12:13. Gonzalez grabbed the lead 2 miles into the race and pushed his advantage throughout.
"I just kept going. They never came back," Gonzalez said. "I was thinking they were going to eat me up from the back, because that happens sometimes. I'm glad I was able to keep it."
Gonzalez spent nearly all of 2010 in Kuwait, away from the local running circuit. He is a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard, which he has been a member of for 12 years.
"I was training over there, just thinking about this race," he said.
Though Rivera, 40, was second overall, he was the men's masters division champion. Tampa's Jon Noland, 36, placed third in 1:13:03.
Crate, a 2007 graduate of Florida State, was a member of a group of lead runners at last year's Gasparilla half-marathon that ran off course on Davis Islands. Crate said she was in first place in the women's race before the mishap but found herself trailing about 20 runners once she was back on the proper path.
On Sunday, Crate knew where she was going and got there in a hurry. She stayed ahead of the pack from the start and broke the tape 28 seconds ahead of the 2005 mark set by two-time Gasparilla half-marathon champion Shannon Hovey from Connecticut.
"I was just trying to follow and make sure I paid attention," the 25-year-old Crate said. "I remembered the course from last year. I looked at a map before the race. Just tried to run smart and make sure I stayed on course."
Crate, who also calls Canada home, just missed her goal of finishing in under 1:20. She is training to run the Boston Marathon in April.
"I was going for a top three," Crate said. "I just wanted to run a good race, get a good time under my belt."
Two-time defending champion Terri Rejimbal of Tampa was second, coming across the line 1:44 behind in 1:21:50. Rejimbal, 42, was the women's masters champion. Lakeland's Laura Woznicki, 24, took third in 1:21:55.
Susan Harmeling, executive director of the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association, said a record 6,000 runners participated in Sunday's half-marathon and were joined by 2,200 more in the first-ever 8-kilometer race.
All told, nearly 26,000 runners entered at least one of the four races this weekend, setting a participation record.