TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The 2021 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic is officially a virtual race event, but runners and walkers will have a familiar place this weekend to log those miles safely.
Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa will be closed to vehicle traffic during the mornings of Saturday, May 8th and Sunday, May 9th. That’s when the races were originally scheduled, and the permit still allows for the street to be closed.
Registered participants can make their way down the iconic four lanes that line Tampa Bay. One of those runners will be out there both mornings. Georgia Malpartida is taking on one of the challenges the race offers.
These challenges are part of the unique character of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic weekend. Four races of different distances are offered, and runners can sign up for one, two, three, or all four of them. Malpartida will be running all four.
“I’m going to do two races a day, just like they map out. On Saturday, I’m going to do the 15K early morning before sunrise. My family will come join me at the finish line, and the kids will run the 5K with me,” explained Malpartida.
That’s a total of 12 and a half miles, but she won’t stop there. She will get up early on Sunday to tackle the half marathon with her sister. That’s another 13.1 miles.
“Then, I’ll do the 8K at an even slower pace with my friends, and then go out to breakfast and celebrate,” said Malpartida.
Celebrate a total of 30.5 miles in two days!
Malpartida laughs when she remembers she felt tricked into running her first race seven years ago.
“The Gasparilla Half Marathon,” she recalls. “Every year, I’ve been adding another race and another race, and my family started joining me for the 5K,” said Malpartida.
The races have become a tradition for her family, and they are happy to continue that tradition even if it’s slightly different due to the pandemic. “Last year, that was the last race we could run together,” said Malpartida.
The world shut down for COVID just a few weeks after last year’s race that normally happens in February. This year, the race was postponed to early May, but eventually had to become virtual. Malpartida is just happy get the race-like atmosphere back on Bayshore Boulevard.
“I’m thankful they’re closing it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to join other runners, and there’ll be that spirit. The locals always come out and greet us, and they dress in pirate costumes. I hope that there will still be that ambiance because that’s what I love about race day,” said Malpartida.
She’ll need that race-day energy to keep her going mile after mile with her family and friends along stride for stride.
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