FLORIDA GULF BEACHES MARATHON: Today. Start - near Cleveland Street on Clearwater's waterfront; finish - Coachman Park on Clearwater's waterfront. 7 a.m. - wheelchairs; 7:05 a.m. - runners; 8:10 a.m. - 10K race starts in Taylor Park.
If Chris Lauber had it his way, he would be running a lifelong marathon.
One step at a time, getting stronger and stronger through the years. It's a metaphor he likes to use in regard to his baby, the Gulf Beaches Marathon, which today completes its fifth annual running.
So far Lauber's race has been difficult. Partly because of Sept.11, 2001, the poor economy, the wars and the competition across the bridge with Tampa's Hops by the Bay Marathon. But Lauber, with no finish line in sight, has no intention of stopping.
"If the economy turns and I get the right proposal in front of the right company then this thing could really take off," he said. "I feel that with every cell in my body.
"We're on a limited budget, but all we need is for something to break."
Today's race should help promote itself, simply because temperatures in the 60s are forecast. About 1,200 are expected to run, which is down from last year's record of 1,605.
"The last two years it's been unseasonably hot and humid and windy," Lauber said. "And then this year we've had to pay more for government and other services (police, road closings, medical assistance). Because we had to pay more for those our marketing budget wasn't as big."
Nonetheless, people from 45 states will be represented.
"See, Clearwater is a destination spot," Lauber said. "I think people in places like Michigan and Minnesota would want to come down and run a marathon and then enjoy the area."
Meantime Lauber, 46, will continue working and working to make his marathon something extra special.
"I hope to do this until the day I die," he said. "But I don't want to keep doing it this way. This can get insane with all the hats that I have to wear.
"But I remain determined. I still have that marathon mentality of seeing this all the way through. No matter how tough it might be."