The benefits of running extend beyond a high level of physical fitness. It even has the effect of making the best runners more humble.
For example, though Lee Stephens had won the Bay to Bay race across St. Petersburg comfortably in 2005 and '06, he stepped to the starting line Sunday with expectations of a second- or third-place finish.
Stephens said he was mindful of the fact Dror Vaknin, a two-time Times Turkey Trot winner, had beaten him badly at last month's Gasparilla 15K. And he was nervous about young Matt Broderick, a former track star at Alonso High now attending the University of Florida.
"Matt has been running real well lately, winning most of his races, so I expected with his speed he'd win," Stephens said shortly after breaking the finish-line tape near the entrance to the Pier in 39 minutes, 56 seconds. "But I ran a tactical race, biding my time early on then accelerating over the final 2 miles, effectively taking the kick out of anyone."
Broderick, a junior at Florida majoring in biology, finished in 40:13 just ahead of Brooksville's John Emerson (40:28). Emerson led from Miles 2 to 5 after passing fearless front-runner Christa Benton, who led the field the first mile.
Benton went on to win the women's division handily in 44:13, 10th overall in the mixed field of about 900. Last year her winning time was 45:09. Her average pace of 5:56 per mile again held off former University of Miami track standout Melanie Peters (44:49), a graduate student at USF St. Petersburg.
Karol Withrow, 41, of Safety Harbor headed the women's masters field winning in 47:16, just ahead Carol Glasscock (47:22) of St. Pete Beach and training partner Lisa Kothe, 46, (50:29) of Clearwater.
Ali Crabb, a senior at Lakewood High, stepped up from the 5K last year to the 12K this year and won her teenage division in 52:51. Crabb drew national attention in November, winning the Footlocker South girls cross country championship in Charlotte, N.C., on a rugged course.
MEN'S AGE-GROUP HIGHLIGHTS: Brooksville's Dan French, who finished a strong third last year at age 43, improved his time this year by clocking 43:20, good for sixth behind Tampa's Chris Hough, fifth, and Chris Raye of Bradenton.
Tampa's Fred Dorsey again dominated the 50-and-over set in 45:41, good for 13th place. Only 20 seconds separated 60-64 winner Duncan Cameron of Palm Harbor from 70-74 winner Bill Riley (49:44), a winter resident from Centerville, Mass., who is ranked No. 1 in his age division by Running Times.
It was Riley's first win over perennial age-group winner Joe Burgasser, who again dominated the 65-69 group in 51:16. Bay to Bay was only the second race (Disney Marathon) of the year for Burgasser who has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury.
Emery Jewell of the Forerunners club didn't win his 75-and-over age division but at 81 he managed to average 11:08 per mile and finished the 7.5-mile course in 1:23:00.
For complete Bay to Bay results, check www.RunBayToBay.com.
SHAMROCK-N-RUN 5K: In Largo last week, a husband and wife team were the big winners. Mark Gosztyla (16:56) and wife Amy (18:06) finished 1-2 in the race with Viktor Laats, 54, of Tampa taking second in the men's field ahead of Kraig Beale of Seminole. Debby Farias and Donna Nesslar, both of Largo, finished 2-3 among women.
- At the Tour de Village 5K in Tampa on Saturday, Louis Rufo of Lutz won in 16:53 and Meghan Sullivan, 16, of Tampa won among women in 20:45.
MARATHONS: Benton is aiming to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials at the April 16 Boston Marathon, only her second attempt at 26.2 miles. Her debut at Disney in January produced a 2:57:25 effort. At point-to-point Boston she'll need a 2:47 or better to be eligible to compete again in Boston on April 20, 2008, a day before the traditional Patriots Day fixture.