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Chad Zagacki, Stephanie Pezzullo find extra gear in Gasparilla 8K

St. Petersburg’s Chad Zagacki is no stranger to running long distances, putting in an average of 45 to 50 miles a week.
St. Petersburg’s Chad Zagacki is no stranger to running long distances, putting in an average of 45 to 50 miles a week.
Published Feb. 21, 2016

TAMPA — The top male and female finishers of Sunday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K — St. Petersburg's Chad Zagacki and Ocala's Stephanie Pezzullo — both said they were not feeling great standing on the starting line before the race.

Zagacki, 21, was a bit fatigued because on Saturday he worked 10 hours of heavy labor for his father's business, pulling windshields from cars in a junkyard, then installing them in other cars.

After that, Zagacki — in the midst of running an average of 45 to 50 miles a week — ran 3 miles to "try and loosen up."

Pezzullo, meantime, is still working out the kinks following a year lay-off of training for personal reasons. Pezzullo, 33, has qualified for two Olympic trial marathons (2012, 2016) and once made her living running professionally, but she's nowhere near full strength.

Nonetheless, Zagacki and Pezzullo were plenty strong enough to beat the 5,000 8K runners lined up behind them — particularly Pezzullo, who finished in 29 minutes, seven seconds, more than a minute ahead of the female runnerup.

Pezzullo, in fact, finished fifth overall.

Zagacki didn't have as easy of a time, dueling most of the way with Palm Harbor's Jeremy Richardson.

In the end, Zagacki had more kick, finishing in 27:48, 13 seconds ahead of Richardson, a triathlete who said he also was feeling "tired and heavy" on the starting line.

Like Zagacki and Pezzullo, Richardson did not rest on Saturday, biking 56 miles and swimming 2,000 yards.

"I thought about not even running the race and sleeping in," Richardson said. "But now I'm glad I did (run)."

Through the first 4 miles or so, Richardson and Zagacki said they felt surprisingly good, then it started to get tough down the final stretch.

"But it was all good in the end," Zagacki said. "Beautiful day."