The horn sounds Feb. 16, as runners begin the Belleair Sunset 5K race.
BELLEAIR – In the days leading up to this year’s Belleair Sunset 5K race, organizers were hoping to attract 1,000 runners for the first time. They fell short of that number, but still set a record and nobody is complaining.
The race was held on Feb. 16 on a cold, blustery evening. Spectators were bundled up in jackets and sweaters and that, said race organizer Sara Borger, was a big reason they fell short of their goal.
“Definitely the weather played a large part of it,” she said. “This year we had only 96 walk-ups, compared to last year when we had 280 walk-ups. So it if had been a normal year we would have reached the 1,000 mark, but we’re still 200 participants over last year.”
In fact, the race attracted 900 runners, a record number in the 12 years the race has been held. That number did cause a bit of a flurry before the race began, and it taught the organizers a lesson to be careful what they wish for.
The record crowd of runners seemed to all show up at the same time on the afternoon of the race to collect their bibs and shirts and to check in. They did not take advantage of the opportunity to pre-register on Friday.
Rachel Schneider, a Belleair recreation supervisor, was manning the sign-in table and said for a while it was chaotic.
“We had doubled the amount of preregistrations,” she said. “Many of those people didn’t show up on Friday to pick up their packets so add them to the walk-ups we had and it was hectic. At the time you just had to smile and get on with it, but now it was worth it.”
Nick Miche, 24, of Tarpon Springs was the overall winner of the 5K race. He did it in a time of 15:44 and says for him it was a good time.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “I haven’t run that fast since college and it is a good time for it. I’m training for a duathalon, a run, bike, run race in March.”
Miche said running is something he has always done and can’t imagine not doing it.
“The best way I can say it is that it is something that comes naturally to me,” he said. “I work out every day. I get up at 5 a.m. and swim, and then in the evening I bike and run. It is not easy but if you want to be the best it takes sacrifices.”
Coming in a little over 3 minutes after Miche was Kathy Frailing, 45, the women’s winner. Frailing, a Largo native, was happy with her performance.
“I’m very happy, I’m stoked,” she said. “I’m in the middle of training for the Boston Marathon in April so this was good for me. In fact this is the fastest time I have ever run on this course. Last year I came in third here.”
Frailing, like most dedicated runners, can’t imagine a day when she doesn’t want to get out to run.
“I love the constant challenge,” she said. “I’ve been running since the seventh grade in Colorado and I’ve never looked back.”
There is something about the Belleair 5K that keeps bringing Frailing back.
“I love this course and everything about it,” she said. “I have been in every race since it started many years ago, when it was held in the morning. And one year it was a 10K and I ran in that.”
Borger said even though the weather limited the number of spectators and the people who stayed around after for the post-race party, she was pleased with the preparation.
“As a staff and volunteers we were very prepared whether it was for 900 or 1,300,” she said. “People still stayed and had a good time and we have since gotten many emails from participants telling us how good a time they had.”
Borger also had plenty of say about the 100 volunteers who participated in helping stage the event.
“Oh my goodness we couldn’t do this without our volunteers,” she said. “Keep in mind that we are a small staff here in Belleair and to put on a race this size takes a lot of people. We very much depend on our volunteers, and we have 10 year old kids helping to volunteers over 80.”
Next year Borger said the race will look to be even better.
“Rain or shine we will have another race,” she said. “This year we had residents lining the course and cheering the runners on, it is a good community event and we will carry on.”