It’s A Runner’s Life: Gasparilla races attract professional athletes

TAMPA,. Fla. (WFLA) — When 30,000+ runners head down Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa for the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic on Feb. 24 and 25, they’ll be joined by some of America’s best athletes. Some are professional runners, like Stephanie Bruce from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Bruce won the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon last year and she’s coming back this year to defend that title.

“You know, it started in the dark for us, but then as you were running along Bayshore Boulevard, the sun coming up. It was just such a beautiful sight,” recalls Bruce.

Besides the beauty of our race and its scenery, there is another reason Bruce and other professional runners will race here. This half marathon is now part of the Professional Road Running Organization (PRRO) series. It joins four other American road races: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile, Lila Bloomsday Run 12K, Boilermaker 15K, and the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler. This series of races is meant to showcase competition, but it also focuses on a clean sport.

“I know that this circuit has been behind that and a lot of their efforts have been for drug testing, and that always as an athlete makes me very happy and very excited to come to races like that,” said Bruce.

For athletes like Bruce, these races are part of their profession. For them, running is an 8 to 5 job.

“We’re training in the morning and training in the afternoon. I’m running anywhere from 90-100 miles a week,” explained Bruce. The hard work these runners put in between races makes it even more important that the race is fair and clean.

In addition to a clean race, these professional runners also need to make money. Most of them have sponsorships, but they also make money from winning races. The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic offers a total of $30,000 in prize money. Both female and male half marathon winners will get $8,000. Second place finishers will get $3500, third place $2,000, fourth place $1,000, and fifth place $500.

“So to have a half marathon have up to $8,000 for the win is a huge incentive for me to not try to go race anywhere else and really put all my eggs in the basket for Gasparilla,” said Bruce.

For the rest of us, we’ll lace up our shoes and run the same route as these professionals. We may never win a race, but crossing the finish line at any time fills us with a sense of accomplishment.

The Gasparilla Distance Classic is Feb. 24 and 25. Runners will head down Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa for the 5K and 15K races on Saturday, Feb. 24. The Half Marathon and 8K races are on Sunday, Feb. 25.

Read more Gasparilla stories here

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