Runners in Belleair’s annual 5K race leave the gate to begin the race.
BELLEAIR – There is something about Belleair and the annual Sunset 5K race that brings runners back year after year. For Larry Smart, 44, of Tampa it could be because he wins the race more often than not.
Smart first entered the race two years ago and finished first overall. If the race is getting better with age, then so is Smart. Back then he won the race with a time of 16:52. His personal best at the time was 16:30 so he was disappointed with his winning time. He blamed it on the heat; the temperature at race time in 2012 was well over 70 degrees.
On Feb. 15 the race time temperature was barely 60 degrees and it showed. Smart won again, this time with a time if 16:25 and once again he credited the weather with the result.
“It was a nice cool evening, great for running,” he said. “The course is great but there is a little incline toward the end that sort of takes it out of you. However I’m happy with the way things turned out.”
Smart also was happy with the entire event and he perhaps was able to answer some of the questions as to why runners keep coming back to Belleair.
“It really has to do with the course mostly,” he said. “This is a beautiful area, it is a very pleasant run and of course the after-party is the best one around.”
Smart missed last year’s race because he was out of town but says he intends to come back again next year if he can.
The first place women’s finisher in the race was Kristen Tenaglia of Seminole. She finished with a time of 17:51.
“That wasn’t bad, I’ve done better but it was pretty good,” she said, “I haven’t raced for a while but I had another girl pushing me all the way.”
Tenaglia, who has entered the Sunset 5K three or four other times, echoed Smart’s comments about why she keeps coming back.
“Belleair is a beautiful city,” she said. “It is a good course with lovely scenery and a great party afterwards. It makes for a fun race.”
Tenaglia, 25, said she used the Sunset 5K as a warm up for the Gasparilla Race in Tampa, which is coming up Feb. 22. She also warms up by running more than 10 miles every day.
Belleair’s newly appointed director of special events, Danielle Felten, said she was pleased with the whole event.
“I was a little worried that something might go wrong,” she said. “But everything went as planned and when something did need a little tweaking the people assigned to the task did their jobs perfectly.”
The now renowned after-party takes place on the sports field adjacent to the Dimmitt Community Center. All those who paid the entry fee for the race get to attend the all-you-can eat, all-you-can drink free party. It is likely every one of the 1,000 runners registered would list the party as a main reason why they attend.
Felten said already plans are underway for next year’s Sunset 5K, which will be the 13th annual.