Runners are set to go at last year’s Belleair Sunset 5k race. More are expected this year.
BELLEAIR – For the past several years the number of participants in the Belleair Sunset 5k Race has grown. Four years ago, 400 runners registered for the run. The following year it grew to 750 and last year the total was 900.
This year, organizers expect at least 1,000 runners, making it the largest ever.
“Way back when, the first race attracted only 48 runners,” said Danielle Felten, Belleair’s special events coordinator. “Now we’re expecting over 1,000 because more and more people are talking about it.”
This year's race is Saturday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Participants can register online at imathlete.com and look for “Belleair Sunset,” or in person at the Dimmitt Community Center. Online registration closes on Feb. 12, but in-person registration continues right through the day of the event.
The discount date is passed so the registration cost is $30 for adults and $20 for children from 5 to 15. For that registrants get a T-shirt, awards for the top finishers and the post-race party.
Felten said the parade route may have something to do with the event's growing popularity.
“The route goes through down and along Bayview and the bluffs and it gives everyone a great view of the beautiful scenery,” she said. “Even the walkers like it, we’ve gotten rave reviews. The runners just have a good time on that route.”
One of the regular participants in the race agrees with that assessment. Jim White has been running in the race for years.
“I enjoy it, it goes past the houses and the bluffs, it is a nice run,” he said. “The athletic websites all bill it as a picturesque run so it has some attraction because of that.”
White says he is not surprised that the event is growing every year.
“It is well advertised and is a nice town event,” he said. “I’m hoping to do real well this year but I have some training to do. I’ve been sick and had a twisted ankle but I’m back at it now.”
Another reason why the race is popular, according to White, is the after-party. Felten acknowledges that it is something that attracts the runners.
“I can only say the party is the best time ever,” she said. “Every registered runner gets to attend the party and besides entertainment there is free food and drink for everybody, all you can eat.”
Belleair resident Amy Maguire, her husband Sean and daughters Megan, 12 and Molly, 10 are regulars in the race. No one is more enthusiastic about the event than Maguire.
“There are so many people from all over who come to the race and they make it exciting,” she said. “Last year I talked to people from St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs and they told me how much they love to come to Belleair for the race.”
Maguire says she and her family have been participating in the race almost since the beginning.
“You establish milestones when you do something like this,” she said. “When my youngest was just 7 she actually ran the entire race. It was a community event and she was with all her friends and they ran the race. They never would have dreamed they could run that far.”
Maguire says she and her family intend on participating in the race for years to come.
The race was started 12 years ago as a 10k run and was held as a fundraiser for the Rec Center. Back then it was held in the morning. Five years ago it was changed to a 5K in the evening and that is when its popularity took off.
“People come back year after year,” said Felten. “This year one woman who has been participating for years told me she finally registered before the early deadline; she signed up early to get the discount.”
Although serious runners from all over participate in the race, there is more to the event than that. In addition to the 5k run, there is also a 1-mile fun run and nobody necessarily needs to run, participants can walk the course as well. As long as they are registered and are paid up they qualify for that after-party, which some have said is the only reason they show up.
“People need to go because it really is fun,” said Felten. “It is really the deal of the century.”