Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Thrill of competition diminished for first Gasparilla women's champ

Thrill is gone for Kim Merritt

TAMPA — Bill Rodgers, the famous marathoner, won the inaugural Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K in 1978. He'll compete in the event's 40th running Saturday.

But who won the first women's 15K? And where will she be Saturday?

The answers: Kim Merritt, and she'll be waiting tables at Bernie's.

Bernie's Hometown Pizzeria is in Racine, Wisc., Merritt's hometown. She works there part-time on weekends to go with her job at a factory that manufactures heat exchangers.

"I've been there 20 years," said Merritt, 61.

Merritt was 22 when she won the 1978 Gasparilla 15K with a time of 55 minutes, 40 seconds.

The winner of the 1975 New York City Marathon and the 1976 Boston Marathon, Merritt was once one of America's top long-distance runners.

Rodgers will be in Tampa to mark his 1978 Gasparilla win. Merritt won't be present. Gasparilla Distance Classic Association executive director Susan Harmeling said the Gasparilla race association reached out to Merritt for the 35th anniversary but didn't hear back.

"My number is still in the phone book," Merritt said.

Merritt said her competitive career ended about 30 years ago when she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. "When I got sick, I couldn't race anymore," she said. "I couldn't push myself. I was going to races, making money. It was my whole life. It was very hard."

She went through a divorce. She worked two jobs to support her two children. Her daughter, Kristin, went to Michigan State on a gymnastics scholarship. Her son, Kenny, ran on scholarship for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where his mother was an All-American.

Merritt lives alone. She runs six days a week, usually with one of her dogs. She has entered a few races over the years. "But racing isn't fun anymore," she said. "I still love running. I just don't like racing."

Martin Fennelly, Times Sports Columnist

Thrill of competition diminished for first Gasparilla women's champ 02/21/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 6:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Playoff ambitions evident in opener for Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch

    Footballpreps

    WESLEY CHAPEL — A new football season in Pasco County begins Friday night, but this one promises to be like none before it — with more math than ever. A new playoff system emphasizes schedule strength, making non-district tilts particularly important.

    Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver Jordan Miner catches a pass in spring practice at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, May 1, 2017.
  2. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues

    Bucs

    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  3. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  4. Calm (Largo) and clamorous (St. Petersburg) converge Friday night

    Footballpreps

    If Largo and St. Petersburg high schools are going to be successful this football season, it will be because of defense. And if those defenses are going to be successful, it will be because of secondaries that are potentially the best in Pinellas County.

    St. Petersburg High School CB Anthony Johnson  practices with his team Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.
  5. Rays morning after: Secret to Alex Colome's success is staying cool, calm, collected

    Blogs

    The ninth inning couldn't have started much worse for Rays closer Alex Colome on Tuesday, who took over with a 6-4 lead and quickly allowed a single and a double to bring the tying run to the plate.

    Alex Colome said the key to his effectiveness is not altering anything, especially his locked-in focus on getting the final outs.