ST. PETERSBURG — It won’t be a race to sign up for next year’s Skyway 10k.
Last year the run over the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge sold out with 20 minutes as more than 30,000 people tried to secure 8,000 available slots. So this year, organizers are trying a different approach, using a lottery to select winners at random.
“We trying to make it easier and give everyone a chance to participate in what is quickly becoming one of the most exclusive, premiere outdoor events in the Tampa Bay area.” said race director Jonathan Dziuba.
“Last year, we weren’t expecting that kind of an influx of registrations and so there were some hiccups,'' he said. "This is one of the things as we’re looking back we’re addressing to make sure that we can continue to improve the event every year and enhance the runner experience.”
The lottery portion of the registration is free and begins at 9 a.m. on Oct. 3. and runs until Oct. 20.
Winners will be notified on Oct. 21 and have one week to claim their spot, enter all necessary personal information, pay the $80 registration fee, and select their travel bus. Any unclaimed spots will go to the next randomly selected lottery winners.
Also new this year, organizers are allowing groups of up to four people to register together. Groups will be treated the same as individuals and will have an equal opportunity to be selected as lottery winners.
If the group is selected, all members of the group will be able to register to participate in the race together.
Last year, according to a previous Tampa Bay Times report, organizers said they were considering opening the 2019 race to more than 8,000 people, which is up by 1,000 from its inaugural year in 2018. However, Dziuba said they decided against it due to limitations on the amount of runners they can put on the bridge at a time, and the amount of time they have to keep the bridge closed.
Nearly 160 school buses will transport the participants from Tropicana Field to the south end of the bridge for the race, which is set to take place March 1. The 6.2 mile run kicks off from the south rest area in Manatee County to the north rest area in Pinellas County. There will be porta potties and water stations along the way.
“This is a monumental undertaking,” said race spokesman James Judge on the tedious process of closing down the northbound direction of the bridge from 3 to 11 a.m., setting up everything on the bridge and getting 8,000 people on buses.
The Skyway 10K is the first run across the bridge since it opened in 1987 and attracts locals and avid running enthusiasts from around the world with participants who traveled from 38 different states and three different countries last year.
Participants love it for the scenic views running across a bridge that is about 200 feet above sea level, and they enjoy supporting a good cause.
The Skyway 10K donates 100 percent of all race registration fee dollars to the Armed Forces Families Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides and cares for military families.
Since the inaugural race, Skyway 10K has raised more than $1.2 million for the Armed Forces Families Foundation. Its first year brought in $540,000 and last year’s raised $640,000.
“Our goal is to match the $640,000 and that’s if we sell out," Judge said, "but we expect it to sell out.”
That funding has afforded the charity the opportunity to complete more than 40 projects at military touch points across the southeast including the opening of the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch in Pinellas Park, and the construction of a playground for families stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.
But to Judge, it’s more than a job, it’s personal.
He knows how beneficial organizations like the Armed Forces Family Foundation are for members of the military and their families having served in Iraq with the Coast Guard and in Afghanistan for the Department of Defense.
“It’s great to have an organization that actually supports your family while you’re out serving the country," Judge said, "whether it’s deployed on a ship, or submarine or deployed to a war zone.”
He’s hoping this year he’ll be able to run some, but knows it will be difficult while also facilitating the race.
VIP tickets are also available to 500 winners for $300 each and grant participants race entry, access to the VIP tent and events, access to a mimosa and Bloody Mary bar, air-conditioned bathrooms, and free food and beverages.
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