Run attracts athletes of all kinds
By SUSAN THURSTON
© St. Petersburg Times,
TAMPA -- Everyone from Olympic medalists to working mothers ran side by side Saturday during the Fourth of July Family Classic at Hunter's Green in New Tampa.
About 150 people of all ages and athletic skills took part in the annual event to kick off the holiday and boost community spirit. They clocked times, cheered neighbors and, most important, had fun.
"Living up here keeps you active," said Heather Link, a 31-year-old mother of two who ran in the race for the first time. "It was great."
Runners came from as close as next door and as far away as England to take part in the 5K race through the well-manicured, gated community north of Tampa. Some had never run before. Others have been running most of their lives.
"I live up here, so that's what makes it fun," said 62-year-old Tony Handler, who competes in triathlons across the state. "It's neat to see people doing stuff, whatever it is. Even walking."
In addition to bringing neighbors together, the race drew some big names in running. England's Mike McLeod and his son, Ryan, took time out of their vacation in Orlando to participate.
Mike McLeod won the Gasparilla Distance Classic in 1984 and 1985 and was a silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He placed third overall in the Hunter's Green race. His 16-year-old son, who hopes to follow in his father's footsteps at the 2008 Olympics, came in first at 17 minutes, 10 seconds.
"It's quite a good setting," said Mike McLeod, 49, after the race. "It has quiet roads and no traffic. It's nice and flat."
Pete Mirones of Hunter's Green said he looks forward to the race every year and was particularly excited to learn that the McLeods were competing.
"This is a big deal," said Mirones, 50, who has been running in Tampa since 1970s.
Nancy Wall said events like the race are what attracted her to Hunter's Green four years ago. And though she prefers aerobics to running, the early-morning jog offered a chance to spend time with her neighbors.
"It's local and convenient and just sounded fun," she said. "It was something different."
Rhonda DelCampo of Lutz said the lush landscaping, smooth terrain and post-race goodies made the event a hit. In honor of Independence Day, she wore red, white and blue, star-spangled shorts.
The Hunter's Green Country Club started the race more than five years ago and has been expanding it ever since. Next year, organizers hope to raise money from the event for local charities.
The event included a 1-mile "Fun Run" for parents and their children. Participants ranged in age from 5 to 69. Winners received trophies and ribbons.
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