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Women of all ages compete in Iron Girl
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Mother-daughter team, Tamie, left, and McKenzie Lang participate in the 2013 Iron Girl 5K race.
CLEARWATER – Women of all ages and athletic levels will flock to Coachman Park on Sunday, April 13, to run in the 11th annual Iron Girl Half Marathon and 5K races. Participants can continue to sign up even through the morning of the race.

Both races will include running over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge, and the half marathon will also go over the Sand Key Bridge and through Sand Key Park.

“Iron girl is a women’s empowerment event series, taking strides toward female empowerment and a healthy lifestyle,” said Michelle Sabo, director of sales and marketing for Iron Girl.

The races both start and end in Coachman Park, 300 Cleveland St. The half marathon begins at 7 a.m., and the 5K begins at 7:30 a.m.

Traffic impact

• One lane of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway and the Sand Key Bridge will be closed to traffic during the race.

• Expect delays in downtown Clearwater from 6 to 11 a.m.

• All traffic should be back to normal by 11 a.m.

The races

There are leisurely time limits so a broad range of runners and walkers can participate in a welcoming environment. The 5K participants must finish within 75 minutes, and the half marathon runners must be able to maintain an 18:18-minute-per-mile pace.

“It’s good for both first-timers as well as those athletes who have come year after year and are more experienced,” Sabo said. “So you have that community of women out there who want to support you no matter what your pace is, and you have that opportunity to, if you want to walk it a while and then run it, and you have the groups of women and the teams to root you on and support you as well as our volunteers.”

There are options to run the 5K either individually, as a mother-daughter team, or participating in a team.

“What makes this year special is we have introduced a team competition for this year, encouraging participants to form groups and teams, and also reaching out to local communities,” said Meghann Anderson-Russell, event coordinator for Iron Girl. “One of our top teams this year who are bringing over 100 participants is ‘Black Girls RUN!’ And we plan to honor the teams on race morning as well. It’s just a fun thing that’s created some buzz.”

About a week before the race, the leading five teams for participation were Black Girls RUN!, Run Tampa, FAB 50 Women on the Run, Shapes Total Fitness Wesley Chapel, and Moms RUN This Town Florida. Teams had until April 7 to get as many participants as possible, and the winner will be announced on race morning. The team will receive a special plaque, two complimentary tickets to next year’s race, and a feature in the post race email.

Anderson-Russell added that the open time limit is nice because it allows people to walk if they need to, still earn their medal and not have to worry about being swept.

All runners in both races will receive a whole host of goodies.

“We’re always trying to improve from the year before, and this year we’ve added some special things to make Clearwater special,” Anderson-Russell said. “It is such a special event for us, as it was our first (Iron Girl) event back in 2004. We are doing event-specific participant shirts this year, and also we have event-specific medals for both the half marathon and the 5K, so every participant will receive a medal at the finish line. We also have our famous post-race breakfast café with linen table covers where runners can sit, relax, and enjoy their breakfast.”

Sabo said everyone is encouraged to participate in this special event. It’s women supporting other women, she said, and all helping to promote a healthy lifestyle. It’s a chance to get up off the couch, have a beautiful, scenic run over the bridge, get a finisher medal and to achieve one’s goals, she said.

As in previous years, the top three finishers in each age group and the overall mother-daughter team will receive a special winner’s pendant from Milestones Sports Jewelry.

This year, Iron Girl has also partnered with two local charities – the Ronald McDonald House of Tampa Bay and Dress for Success of Tampa Bay.

“We’re looking at platforms with the charities that align with our goals and mission,” Sabo said.

When racers registered online, they had the opportunity to donate to the charities, Sabo said. People also will have the opportunity to donate at the packet pick-ups, at the fitness expo, and on race day. Runners and spectators alike also will be able to learn more about the charities by visiting their booths at the expo on April 12 and on race morning. Proceeds for the Ronald McDonald House will go toward building a playground. Other items needed are grocery store gift cards to help stock food for the charity. Additional items needed for Dress for Success are toiletries such as hairspray, shampoo and conditioner, and gently used or new women’s business suits sizes 14+, purses and scrubs.

Even if someone is not ready to run the race this year, Sabo and Anderson-Russell still encourage them to come and cheer everyone on.

“That extra cheer, ‘You go, girl,’ kind of mentality gets you over those challenging bridges that you have to go over,” Sabo said.

“It also serves as inspiration for people who don’t think they can achieve it,” Anderson-Russell added. “Come out and watch the race and I can almost guarantee that you’ll be out there next year because there’s something so inspiring about going and cheering on all those women.”

There are many fitness and running apps that can help people start running, even if they have never really run before, Anderson-Russell said. Another good option is to join a local running group because that provides camaraderie, support and helps with a personalized training plan, she said.

For those who still want to register in advance, they can do so at packet pick-up locations, at the race expo, or on race morning:

• Packet pick-up – Friday, April 11, 4 to 7 p.m., at Fit2Run at the International Plaza, 2223 North West Shore Blvd., Tampa, adjacent to the food court.

• Expo – Saturday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Coachman Park, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater.

• Race morning – Sunday, April 13, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., at Coachman Park.

Cost for the half marathon is $125; cost for the 5K walk/run is $50; cost for the 5K mother-daughter two-person teams is $100.

People are encouraged to arrive early if they want to try to grab one of the free 425 parking spots at Coachman Park. Runners should make sure they come well hydrated and dress the way they have trained, Sabo said. Also, be prepared for potential temperature changes, as it could be chilly at 6 a.m. but hot by the time they complete the race.

For a complete map of parking, the race route, and other details, visit www.i­rongi­rl.co­m.

This year, Verizon Wireless is the title sponsor of the race, and its presenting sponsor is Bouchard Insurance.
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