TAMPA — The men’s and women’s winners of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K — Taylor McDowell and Kaitlyn Campo — are both pondering more distance.
More miles a week. Steadier paces. Longer races.
Don’t get them wrong, the 5Ks have been great fun and included many victories. McDowell, for instance, won the Gasparilla 5K in 2018 while Campo won in 2020.
“But I am curious as to what I might be able to do in a longer race,” said Tampa’s McDowell, who competed for the University of Chicago but hasn’t tried much more than a 10K. “I think I’m ready to go longer.”
Why not? McDowell, 32, is still running 90 to 110 miles a week between working as an English teacher at a local private school.
“I’ve been toying with the idea of running the 15K and the 5K next year,” said McDowell, who before Saturday in the Gasparilla 5K finished 10th (2016), first (2018), second (2019) and third (2020). “It’s something I’ve really been thinking about.”
McDowell pushed to the lead just after the first mile, then held off Jesuit High alum Jordan Schilit, 32, the rest of the way. McDowell finished in 15:44 and Schilit in 15:50.
Like McDowell, Campo, 28 of Tampa, has been thinking similarly “longer thoughts” after a series of injuries throughout her running career, which includes a stint with USF.
“I would train hard (40-plus miles a week) and get fast and then get injured,” said Campo, who last year placed third in the 5K, then keeled over at the finish line and had to be taken by wheelchair to the medical tent.
The trouble last year, Campo said, was that she broke her fibula in January and wore a boot until mid February. Then, after barely training for a few days without the boot, decided to show up and try the 5K.
“I thought I’d just do my best,” said Campo, who finished 2022 in 19:16. “But it was too hot and I wasn’t ready.”
At the end of Saturday’s 5K, Campo was again wobbly and “felt the noodle legs coming,” but she wasn’t close to passing out.
Campo’s time was 18:12, nine seconds ahead of her good friend, 30-year-old Vanessa Righeimer, a University of Tampa alum who ran against Campo in college.
Before the race, Campo said she felt a little nervous, partly because she thought she had a chance to win and partly because she knew Righeimer was competing.
“With (Righeimer) in the race I thought I’m going to have to work really hard to win,” she said. “I knew she was so fast, and throughout the race I knew she was right behind me. So I knew I couldn’t slow down. She’s the reason why I ran as fast as I did. Without her pushing me I most definitely would have slowed down.”
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On Sunday, Campo plans to run the half-marathon. But, she said, “I’ll run it slower and easier. I just want to see how I feel. If it’s too much then I’ll slow it down. We’ll see. I’m interested to see how it goes.”