Women take off from the starting line during the 2011 Athleta Iron Girl race.
Image courtesy of IRON GIRL
The Iron Girl race path starts at Coachman Park in Clearwater and ends at the Pier on Clearwater Beach.
CLEARWATER – About 4,500 women are expected to compete in the eighth annual Athleta Iron Girl race on Sunday, April 22.
This is the second year when the event offers a half marathon in addition to the 5K walk/run, said Judy Molnar, vice president of Iron Girl.
“This is an exciting time for us,” Molnar said. “Since we moved the event to Clearwater, we have grown every year, and because of that growth, we were able to add a half marathon. … The half marathon has become the ‘it’ distance for women in running, now.”
The Iron Girl race series began in 2004 with just two events, and now it has grown to 14 events throughout the country, with distances ranging from 5K, 10K, half marathon, duathlon and triathlon. It started in Palm Harbor, and then it moved to USF and finally found its home on Clearwater Beach for the local event. Molnar said this is the perfect location for this racing event.
“Just the pure beauty of Clearwater,” Molnar said. “There’s nothing like having it at one of the world’s best beaches. Who wouldn’t want to come here? And certainly the cooperation and the wonderful support of the city of Clearwater makes it that much easier.”
This year, runners in the half marathon will have to cross two bridges, and the 5K runners will have to cross one.
This year, it is a point-to-point race, starting at Coachman Park and ending at Clearwater Beach, Molnar said, which she believes is a beneficial change.
“It is great for participants because now they just have to get to the starting point and not have to shuttle both ways, and it minimizes traffic so it’s not tying up the causeway for as long,” Molnar said.”
No streets will be completely closed for the race, she said. Delays are anticipated, but since the event falls outside of peak spring break season, traffic should be manageable, she said.
After the race, runners will enjoy a breakfast café award ceremony on the beach. As always, it caters specifically toward women, with linen-covered tables and beautiful centerpieces, Molnar said. An Iron Girl sand sculpture also will be displayed at the event.
Participants in Iron Girl come in all shapes and sizes and experiences, Molnar said, with this year’s scheduled youngest participant being 3 years old, and the oldest being 84. The average age is 37, she said, but the common factor is that they all are female.
“What always makes it special is that it’s women only, and that spirit of empowerment of women, getting a whole bunch of women together to finish,” Molnar said.
The Iron Girl draws everyone from their first race to their 100th, Molnar said, but everyone is supportive of each other.
“Usually about 50 percent of the field is their first time doing this type of event, and since it’s women only, it takes away that intimidation factor and they feel welcomed and that they belong,” Molnar said. “It’s all about personal achievement. There’s no prize money. An Iron Girl participant is a wife, a mother, a coworker, someone you see every day, a sister, an aunt. Someone who does this for their lifestyle, not a paycheck. They do get a medal, but this truly is an individual sport. This is about their personal day and what they can achieve.”
People have one last chance to sign up for the event. Go in person on Friday, April 20, 5 to 8 p.m. at Fit2Run at the International Mall; or Saturday, April 21, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Iron Girl Expo at Pier 60 in Clearwater. Cost is $125 for the half marathon, $45 for the 5K, or $90 for the 5K mother/daughter team. There is a four-hour cut-off time for the half marathon, so runners must maintain an 18:18-minute per mile pace or faster to finish. All 5K runners must finish in 75 minutes or less.
The half marathon begins at 7 a.m. on April 22, and the 5K begins at 7:30 a.m. Age group winners receive Iron Girl jewelry, and all finishers receive medals.
Race impacts local traffic
Traffic delays are possible during the 2012 Iron Girl Event on Sunday, April 22, from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. Please allow for extra time when traveling the Sand Key Area, Clearwater Beach, Memorial Causeway, and downtown Clearwater.
Officials say motorists should use caution in the following areas.
• Cleveland Street south of Coachman Park
• North Osceola Avenue
• North Fort Harrison Avenue
• Court Street west to Clearwater Beach
• Chestnut Street east through Clearwater
• Palm Avenue, Turner Street, Oak Avenue, Lime and Orange avenues
• Druid Road South
• Memorial Causeway eastbound
• Coronado Drive south of the roundabout
• 200 block of Gulfview Boulevard
• Gulfway Drive
• Bayway Boulevard
• Runners will begin to enter Belleair around 7:25 a.m. as they proceed south on Druid Road, loop down Willadel Drive and continue south on Druid.
• Runners will then loop on Ambleside Drive, go back south on Druid, head east on Belleview Boulevard, south on Indian Rocks Road, then west on Bay View Drive.
• At Manatee Drive, runners will travel east then south on Ponce de Leon to Rosary Road, and west to Eagles Nest Drive where they will head south.
• Next, they will go around South Pine Circle and continue into Belleair Bluffs.
• All runners should be through Belleair by 9:30 a.m.
• Runners will begin to enter Belleair Bluffs by 7:45 a.m. as they proceed south on Bluff View Drive, turn left on Renatta Drive, and continue east to Lentz Drive.
• Racers will then head south on Lentz Drive to Sunset Boulevard, then to West Bay Drive.
• All runners should be through Belleair Bluffs by about 9:45 a.m.
• Northbound traffic will be permissible on Indian Rocks Road and Druid Road, though southbound traffic will not be allowed from the town of Belleair’s north entrance on Druid to Bay View Drive.
• Westbound traffic on Belleview Boulevard will be allowed, but eastbound traffic from the guard gate to Indian Rocks Road will not be allowed. Traffic leaving the guard gate will be directed to travel north on Druid.
• Eastbound traffic will be allowed on Rosary Road, but westbound traffic will not.
• Residents on Eagles Nest, South Pine Circle, North Pine Circle, Winston Drive, and Sunset Drive will be assisted entering and leaving the area by officers and volunteers working the race.
• Access to all of the golf courses and the Country Club will be available, but some drivers may have to make a detour to arrive at their destination.