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Weekend races and fitness expo aren't just for runners

The St. Pete Beach Classic's second edition hits town this weekend, with Sunday morning footraces on Gulf Boulevard, a fitness expo and a celebratory bonfire Saturday night.

The races are expected to draw as many as 2,500 runners, said Wendy Johnson, president of Motion Sports, which is putting on the events.

If that large a field appears, it would nearly double last year's participation and would be in keeping with Johnson's goal.

The idea is to make the race a fixture on the winter racing season while providing a community party for both runners and non-runners, she said.

Racing starts with a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run at 8:15 a.m. A 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. and races for children at 9:45 a.m.

Motorists who don't want to worry about possible delays during the races should plan to be away from the area by 7:30 a.m. Traffic will not be completely shut down on Gulf Boulevard, but traffic in some other sections will be, Johnson said. An example: some areas west of Gulf Boulevard between 67th and 79th avenues, she said.

Aiming to head off problems, volunteers hand-carried thousands of race fliers to St. Pete Beach businesses and residences to alert people of the event, Johnson said.

"The whole goal is to make sure we don't inconvenience people," she said.

Race volunteers still are needed. Their duties might include helping to direct runners on the courses and assisting race registration Saturday and Sunday, Johnson said. A free volunteer party is at 6 tonight at the TradeWinds, 5500 Gulf Blvd.

Participants should come early as parking is limited. It is available at Dolphin Village shopping center, immediately across the street from the race venue at 4650 Gulf Blvd. More is available at Hurley Park, 15th Avenue and Gulf Way on Pass-a-Grille Beach; and at the old city hall, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. Shuttles will be provided from the remote parking areas.

Some new features have been added this year.

One is the free Saturday night beach party and bonfire behind the Dolphin Beach Resort, 4900 Gulf Blvd., next to the county beach. It starts at 7 p.m. and race officials encourage the community to attend.

In addition, two elite runners have been invited: Dror Vaknin of Tampa and Sonja Friend-Uhl of West Palm Beach. Vaknin has long been one of the state's top runners; Friend-Uhl has a lengthy resume that includes two world 2K beach run titles at the world lifesaving championships.

"We want to have them help us evaluate the course so we can position it to bring in the top runners in the country over the next two to three years," Johnson said.

Race charities include the St. Pete Beach recreation division scholarship fund; Tampa Baywatch, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group; and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.

"We want the whole community to come out, whether they run, cheer on the runners or go to the expo," she said.


WHAT: Health and Fitness Expo and three races: 10K, 5K and children to age 12

WHERE: St. Pete Beach

WHEN: Expo and late registration on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., at St. Pete Beach County Park; late Sunday registration is 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. at the Expo; races on Sunday at 8:15 a.m. (10K); 8:30 a.m. (5K) and 9:45 a.m. (children's races).

ALSO: Beach party and bonfire at 7 p.m. Saturday next to county park behind Dolphin Beach Resort.

COURSE: Flat, fast and certified accurate

HOST HOTEL: TradeWinds Island Resort

AWARDS: Five deep in five-year groups

AWARDS PARTY: Bennigan's, Dolphin Village