TAMPA — A harbinger of the humid morning unfolding Saturday along Bayshore Boulevard occurred less than a mile into the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15-kilometer race.
Without breaking stride, three-time winner Jon Mott snagged a cup from the first water station, which hadn’t been completely set up yet. Upon discovering the cup was empty, the Northeast High alumnus tossed it in mild frustration and trotted on.
“I was just being smart (in terms of hydration),” Mott said.
Finding filled cups — and his groove — as the race progressed, the 36-year-old Lakeland resident ultimately surged to his fourth 15K Gasparilla triumph, crossing the finish line in the shadow of Tampa General Hospital in 48 minutes, 50 seconds.
Racing step for step with Bradenton’s Ian Walsh and former Chamberlain High star Mark Parrish in the first half of the race, Mott gradually pulled away following the Gandy Boulevard turn near the race’s midpoint and increased his lead north along Bayshore, when temperatures had eclipsed 70 degrees.
“I felt actually really good,” said Mott, who returns Sunday to compete in the half-marathon, another event he has won previously.
“I was surprised because I’ve been feeling not good lately, so I was happy with that, especially to beat (Walsh and Parrish). Especially Mark here; he’s a really good runner.”
By the 7-mile mark, he was roughly 30 meters ahead of Walsh, 36, who finished 19 seconds behind. Parrish, returning from a one-year layoff due to an Achilles injury, was third in 49:27.
“(Mott’s) a beast,” said the 31-year-old Parrish, a four-time All-American (twice in the indoor 5,000 meters, twice in the outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase) at the University of Florida. He now is an aerospace engineer living in Boulder, Colorado.
“He’s always there, always there,” Parrish added. “It was fun to run into him today. We had a couple of little minutes to chat during the opening kilometers of the race, just kind of taking it smooth and easy through the first 5K.”
Because he remains a local resident, Mott earned $2,000 for the victory, a significant payday for what constituted a glorified training run.
Mott, who already has qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials for a third time, is preparing for his first Boston Marathon, in which he’ll compete as a pro on April 17. In September, he ran the Berlin Marathon in Germany, finishing 40th in 2:17.20.
“The time today (well shy of his Gasparilla personal best) wasn’t necessarily anything I’d be too happy with, but I felt good doing it,” said Mott, a Lakeland-based running coach. “And that gives me confidence heading into Boston.”
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Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.