While a cold weather front blankets the north with snowy skies we Floridians have found a different way to celebrate the season, it involves costumes, fake snow, a beer truck and 700 runners. That's right, the Frosty 5K took place this past weekend in Sarasota and it attracted a monster crowd of endurance junkies who were warmly wrapped in the Christmas spirit.
The event brought in running groups from all over southwest Florida as well as visitors from as far away as Canada. Attendees added flair to the occasion wearing reindeer antlers, sparkly red Christmas shorts or simply dressing as Frosty the snowman. However, Frosty himself showed up wearing his running shoes. He was made of snow but the children know that he ran the Frosty 5K and boy did he run fast. Well, who could blame him? With the morning temperature reaching 80 degrees, Frosty had to finish the race before he melted.
The Frosty 5K is organized by the Active Suncoast Foundation and is one of the most scenic runs in the area. It starts on a road inside Twin Lakes park, a gathering point that can comfortably hold 665 runners before the arch. There would have been more runners if not for a car fire on I-75 North that caused some to miss the race. After the obligatory announcements, playing of the national anthem and early start of the Care2Tri duo, the race began.
The fleet of feet banked right through the parking lot then right again down towards the entrance. Before reaching the street they veered onto a grass section which took them into the adjacent neighborhood. Almost immediately 16 year old Tyler Fisher took a phenomenal lead followed by a strong pack which included Heather Butcher, Rachael Chambers, Michael Giampino and Alvin Duere.
While the challengers were formidable, there was no catching Tyler Fisher who went on to win the race with a time of 16:45. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Tyler has become a rising star in the local running scene. As a cross country runner for the Port Charlotte High School Pirates, he is a top competitor who is comfortable at speeds that most of us will never reach. As for big races, Tyler won last year's Turkey Trot at Edison College with a similarly fast time. Keep an eye out for him in the future.
Rounding out the top few on the men's side was Alvin Duere who took 1st in class (Male 20-24) and 3rd overall with a time of 19:31. Only 2 seconds behind him was 24 year old Brian Sullivan who took 2nd in class (Male 20-24) and 4th overall.
On the ladies side we saw another sparkling victory from well known favorite Heather Butcher. As the Female Overall Winner and 2nd fastest time overall, Heather showed top form coming in at a blazing finish of 18:57. The Female Masters Winner was Sarasota's very own Rachael Chambers coming in with the 6th fastest time at 19:45.
The Female Grand Master Winner was Marti Stetter who, having just completed her first 50K ultra only a week before, took the win with a time of 23:29. We also saw a dazzling pace set by the Senior Grand Master Winner Sandy Meneley. Sandy traveled down from Holmes Beach, Florida to slay the competition with a time of 23:55.
Not to be discounted was the number of young participants at this year's event. There were 85 runners under the age of 14 years old. Each brought a delightful enthusiasm to the holiday festivities. The youngest was 4 year old Jayden Zayas who finished the race in a little over an hour.
The fastest of the youth girl runners was Darielle Costa (Winner ages 13-14) with a time of 22:24, Isabella Busi (Winner ages 8-10) with 26:00 and Chloe Lear (Winner ages 11-12) with 26:44. On the boys side it was Ben Sweiderk (Winner ages 11-12) with a time of 21:03, followed by Zachary Jones (Winner ages 8-10) with 21:07 and Noah Brindley (Winner ages 13-14) with 22:40.
This year's event was boosted by two changes that appeared to have spurred greater interest than in years past. The 750 runner registration cut off caused a rush to sign up and fill that quota which it did way ahead of time. The shiny new finishers medals are some of the most eye catching and well made bling out there. They are also cleverly disguised bottle openers, very sneaky.
The finishing area was one of smiles and sunshine. Under a canopy of oak trees and spanish moss, runners enjoyed bowls of Geckos Bar & Grill's famous chili alongside nuggets from Chik-fil-A, coffee from Dunkin Donuts and the glorious beer truck. If the turn out was any indicator we can expect the Frosty to solidify itself as one of the area's premier 5K races. Don't be surprised if it sells out next year as well.
Photos and results are listed at the links below.