Group to run in memory of late runner

Published February 5, 2005

TAMPA - Near the corner of Bayshore and Barcelona, on Mile 7 of last year's Gasparilla Distance Classic's 15K, Jimmy Hamilton, 34, suffered a heart attack and fell to the road.

Runners and spectators called for help on their cell phones and he was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where he died at 9:22 a.m.

Today, in honor of Hamilton and his love of running, 250 family members and friends, who have flown in from all over the country, will walk the last 2.3 miles of the 15K, finishing it for Hamilton.

At 8:30 a.m., the group plans to assemble near the Barcelona crossroad and begin the 2.3 miles, trying to reach the finish line at the exact time of his death.

After they cross the finish, race officials will honor Hamilton by presenting a 2004 Gasparilla Distance Classic race number and finisher's medal to his family.

"We're trying to make something positive out of Jimmy's life and bring awareness to people about his condition (enlargement of the heart)," friend Tim Hill said. "Jimmy didn't even know he had a problem. He ran three or four times a week and nothing seemed wrong with him. So his death was a shock to everyone. ...

"So many people were touched by Jimmy, and several friends feel so strongly about him and what we're doing that they're flying in on the red-eye from places like Los Angeles. Yes, this will be emotional but I think it will also be something wonderful."

The contingent will be wearing T-shirts with Hamilton's picture.

WATER SPORTS: About the time many of Sunday's marathon and half-marathon runners will be enjoying energy drinks and power bars, a water ski show will begin in the harbor just beyond the finish line.

The show, performed by the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team, is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. and will consist of two 45-minute programs with a 15-20 minute break in between.

PRIZE MONEY: While much of the prize money is weighted toward Sunday's marathon masters entrants, there still is decent cash to run for among everyone else.

Today's 15K breakdown for men and women (only full-time residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Manatee and Sarasota counties are eligible): Winners, $2,000; second, $1,500; third, $750; fourth, $500; fifth, $250.

Open Division for marathon men and women (anyone eligible): Winners, $2,500; second, $1,000; third, $750; fourth, $500; fifth, $250.

Marathon Masters Division (40 and over) men and women: Winners, $8,000; second, $4,000; third, $1,500; fourth, $1,000; fifth, $500.

WEATHER REPORT: Sunday's Bank of America Marathon is scheduled to start at 5:55 a.m. with the half-marathon at 6. The forecast calls for partly cloudy and 50 degrees with winds from the north, northeast at 5 mph and no chance of rain. Sunrise is scheduled for 7:14.