BELLEAIR – Organizers of the 11th Belleair Sunset 5K and Fun Run are expecting the number of participants to exceed last year’s figure.
“We would like 1,000 participants, that’s my goal, 1,000, and we’re headed that way,” said Sara Borger, Belleair Rec’s, director of special events. “Already our registrations are over 500. Last year, when online registration closed two nights before the race we only had 435 registrants, but then we had a lot of walk-ups and ended up with over 700 runners.”
With those numbers Borger has reason to be optimistic, especially if the walk-up numbers are in any way comparable.
The race is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 16, 5:30 p.m. Borger said the course is a big factor in attracting runners.
“The course this year is the same as last year,” she said. “It runs along the water and through the Belleair neighborhood. We have had so many reviews by runners who have participated in the past that we expect there to be a good turnout. The majority of the winners from last year will be here again this year.”
Borger says high school and middle school track teams are being offered a discount to participate in the race and those numbers should help boost the total. As well she said the running club “Run for Brews” from St. Petersburg will be participating.
“In past years they have sent as many as 100 runners to this event, and they are all good runners,” she said.
For the fourth year in a row, Fred Ryzmek has been hired as the race director. Ryzmek, who works about 50 races a year in the area, knows something about races and he says this is a good one.
“This is one of those hidden gems that people don’t know much about,” he said. “Belleair is unique but once people run this race they always come back.”
Ryzmek said one of the keys to making the race successful was moving it from the morning to the evening.
“Back in the beginning the residents of the community were the only ones who participated in the race, it used to be only the locals,” he said. “Now people are finding out and the runners are telling others that they just have to experience this race.”
There is more to the race than just the running that attracts participants. Borger said the after-party is perhaps the best anywhere.
“Everything is free once you get into the party,” she said. “Registration fees for runners 16 and over are $30 and those younger pay $20. For that they get a T-shirt and then at the party all they can eat and drink. There is even a band, the Hot Rod Hornets. It is really a wonderful evening.”
Non-race participants also can get into the post-race party. For $15, they will get all the free food and drink and entertainment as will those who took part. In fact the Sunset 5K post-party is one of the main social events on Belleair’s calendar.
Race participants are encouraged to pick up their race packets at the town hall on Friday night between 4 and 7 p.m. or on race day at 2 p.m. This year the bibs will all be implanted with a microchip so a more accurate time can be recorded. Borger said runners should be pleased to hear that.
Borger also paid tribute to the various sponsors who are participating in the event.
“Dex Imaging is our title sponsor,” she said. “Without them we could not do this race. And Belleair Images will be taking pictures and handing them out.”
She added that many others were vital to the success of the event and as a result of their giveaways runners are attracted. The big giveaway this year she said is a $1,200 outdoor dining set compliments of Leaders Furniture.
“We’re just lucky we have the greatest sponsors,” said Borger.
The sponsors’ participation is something Borger hopes will boost the numbers of race participants.
There is a saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” and in the case of the Belleair Sunset 5K, Race Director Ryzmek injects a final, positive note of caution.
“This will never be as big as Gasparilla,” he said. “But it is growing constantly, and I don’t know if Belleair will be prepared for what the race would bring if it gets bigger.”
Words of caution perhaps, but no doubt words that are music to the ears of Sara Borger.