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This all-female fleet pulls off the ultimate Gasparilla feat

Twelve women in the Riverview chapter of Moms Run This Town complete the Ultra Challenge (that’s all four races).
The Riverview chapter of Moms Run This Town gives a cheer at the halfway point of the Publix Gasparilla Race Weekend. Twelve of the members ran all four Gasparilla Races, the 15K and 5K on Saturday and the half marathon and 8K on Sunday. Pictured left to right: Front row - Grace Meeker, 36; Joy Paquette, 40; Stephanie DeMars, 30; Patti Page, 35; Danielle ONeil, 40. Second row - Jessica Russo, 30; Casey Appleby, 37; Jaime Sharitz, 41; Lea Ann Keller, 44; Katie Pequeno, 35; Anna Schermerhorn, 32. Back Row - Nicole Heubusch, 28; Brianna Ward, 39; Marie Staubitz, 44; Ashley Ise, 48; Lauren Fuchsen, 34. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published Feb. 24
Updated Feb. 24

TAMPA — They are lawyers, teachers, dental hygienists, artists, computer wizards and so on.

They are also all women.

“No men allowed,” said 34-year-old Lauren Fuchsen, chuckling with several other women.

But seriously, no men allowed.

The name of the club, after all, is Moms Run This Town, with the subtitle, She Runs This Town, because not all of the women are technically moms, unless you include the fact that all of them — as several pointed out — are moms to cats and dogs.

“We welcome newcomers,” said Patti Page, 35.

As long as they want to run.

Run fast? Not necessarily.

It’s far more about running often, running with friends, feeling safe in a group and getting fit in the process, both physically and mentally.

The goals are also pretty great, a fact emphasized this weekend at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic, where 12 women in the Moms Run This Town group from Riverview ran every race — the 15K and 5K on Saturday, and the half-marathon and 8K on Sunday.

After finishing Saturday, and facing the two races on Sunday, 35-year-old Katie Pequeno said, “With a few miles to go in the 15K and the sun beating down I did think, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

Katie Pequeno, 35, holds up her five medals after completing the four races over the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Weekend, featuring a 15K and 5K on Saturday, and a half-marathon and 8K on Sunday. A fifth medal is given to the Ultra Challenge competitors to complete the medal set. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

Standing next to Pequeno was 41-year-old Jaime Sharitz, who twice before has run all the races on the Distance Classic weekend (30.5 total miles). Sharitz was quick with encouragement.

“We will all be fine,” Sharitz said. “We can all do it.”

And they did.

All of them.

On Sunday there was celebration, even a little bit during the races where members handed out champagne shots four times to the moms running all four races — also known as the Ultra Challenge.

“We drank all of our shots,” Pequeno said.

Afterward, the women said the weekend was tough but fun and rewarding and all the more worth it because they did it as a group, pulling each other along, inspiring each other to meet three times a week at 5 a.m. for runs of 3, 4, 5, maybe even up to 7 miles.

“I would have hit my snooze button and probably would have never done it, but I did because I knew my friends were waiting for me out there,” Pequeno said. “Being a group, a team, is what makes it happen.”

Inspiration?

How about 40-year-old Joy Paquette, who overcame breast cancer and ran the Ultra Challenge. Or Stephanie DeMars, 30, who before a few years ago had never run at all, but this year, largely because of “Moms Run This Town,” ran three marathons and the Ultra Challenge. Or how about Pequeno, who trained during her pregnancy, gave birth a year ago, came back to train with her group, and ran the Ultra Challenge.

Next week the group from Riverview, much like other Moms Run This Town chapters around the country, will meet again and run again and set new goals again.

“And feel good about doing it,” DeMars said. “Because we’re doing it together.”

Read more:

Arizona’s Scott Fauble holds off defending champ in Gasparilla half-marathon

Aliphine Tuliamuk remembers her roots after Gasparilla half-marathon win

It's not always about a sprint to the finish

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