Festive would be the best word to describe the 2013 St Patty's day race held at Sharkys on the Pier in Venice, Florida. Runners dressed up in their best green costumes to tackle an 8K race course in what turned out to be a chilly 48 degrees.
The cold might have been an obstacle but it didn't scare anyone away. 300 runners arrived on time, got their numbers and timing chips and then stayed warm in their cars until the last fifteen minutes before start time. Then this colorful, shivering crowd amassed on Harbor Drive South to await the horn.
The course was simple but fun. From Harbor Drive they banked right down Beach Road, past the airport and rounded the end of the field onto the canal bike path. This was the real deciding stretch. Runners got into their rhythms and measured their breath against the long line of competition that stretched out before them.
At the 3 mile mark there was a resurgence of energy as several runners suddenly picked up their speed in anticipation of their potential time. Shortly after this mark the course took a sharp right off the path, over a small foot bridge and onto the sand road to Casperson Beach. From there it was a mile and a quarter back to the Sharkys parking lot and the finish line.
The big winner was 27 year old Mark Hayward who held an astonishing pace of 5:33 per mile. Mark finished the race in a mere 27:35. His win was well deserved and well received at the awards ceremony. The Female overall winner was Kristy Hynes who scored an admirable 36:12.
The youngest runner at this event was also the person with the coolest name. Bear Mancinni is 8 years old and it took him over an hour to complete the course but he toughed it out and got to take home a first place medal for his efforts.
Being St Patty's Day, green was the theme and so in addition to the green costumes, the medals were green and even the beer was green. Sharkys on the Pier worked well with the South County Family YMCA and of course, Zoomers Run to put on a well organized event. There was warm food, coffee, bagels and plenty of seating room.
There was also no shortage of cameras and smiles. ABC news found their way through the crowd as did the Zoomers who took hundreds of photos. After finishing my run, I took a few as well and you can see them here.
It was my first 8K race and only my third time ever running this distance. I started at a slow, comfortable pace and slowly picked up a rhythm in the last three miles. I scored 6th in the 35-39 class with a time of 42:35, way faster than I anticipated. This might very well be my last race in this class as my birthday is coming up soon pushing me up in 40-44 group.
The St Pattys Day 8K was a great race but more importantly it was also perfect practice for the upcoming Florida State 10K Championships in April which will be held on the same roads. These championships will be huge, so do not miss it!