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FLORIDA GULF BEACHES MARATHON . . .
Moves to February, Maintains Boston Qualifier Status
Clearwater, FL --- The Florida Gulf Beaches Marathon, after three years of
successfully attracting marathoners to Clearwater, Florida in January, has
moved to February 16, 2003 for its’ fourth annual running.
The move was prompted by the announcement by promoters of the Hops Marathon
in Tampa, which held its’ first two events in December, would consolidate
with their popular Gasparilla 15K Distance Classic (held for twenty-five
years in February), and move to one weekend, January 4-5, 2003.
With the tenth annual Disney Marathon scheduled for January 12, 2003, Gulf
Beaches Executive Director Chris Lauber decided January would be too crowded
to support so many distance races in central Florida in such a short period
of time, so he moved Gulf Beaches to February.
"When we scheduled our inaugural marathon in January three years ago, we
were mindful of both the Disney Marathon and the Gasparilla Distance
Classic, both extremely popular events here in central Florida,” said
Lauber. “When Gasparilla moved to January and the opportunity presented
itself, we jumped at the chance to move to February, which is even a more
desirable timeframe for a winter break. We anticipate a significant
increase in participation."
Of course, it’s never as easy as just selecting a new date. Verbal
permission was granted from all nine cities, multiple departments in the
county government, Florida Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast
The final decision wasn’t made until Lauber consulted with the Boston
Marathon. Like other marathons, Gulf Beaches serves as a qualifying race for
Boston, the world’s oldest marathon. Runners must complete a marathon in a
qualifying time based on their age and gender during a specific timeframe.
Until this year, that window closed on March 1, but Boston organizers moved
their deadline to the beginning of February.
Lauber learned that other marathons held this past February were
"grandfathered in” as Boston Qualifiers and petitioned the Boston Athletic
Association to have Gulf Beaches also serve as a qualifier. Boston Race
Director Dave McGillivray responded, "We can certainly accept those in your
race who meet the qualification standards, only if our field has not filled
by then (which I am guessing it won't be)."
Not only is the Gulf Beaches Marathon a qualifier, but it will be one of the
last Boston Qualifiers for 2003. It will also be a qualifier for 2004, so
runners can double qualify.
With its’ flat, fast and scenic course the Florida Gulf Beaches Marathon is
an attractive option for runners unable to qualify at other marathons, as
12% of the field posted times fast enough to qualify each of the last three
Mike Boza, a cross-country coach in Tampa, qualified for Boston at Gulf
Beaches after trying for six years at marathons like Disney, Grandma’s,
Jacksonville, and Hops. In 2001, he finished Gulf Beaches in 3:17:35, and
qualified with more than two minutes to spare in his age group.
Another runner from Washington also qualified and posted this review at
"In a last ditch effort to post a Boston qualifying time for 2001, I
searched for an appropriate race. Florida seemed to make the most sense and
the anticipation of a fast course led me to this place."
"It seemed to me that about 99 percent of this course is flat, checkerboard
flat. The other 1 percent consists of 4 bridges and three tricky footed
pedestrian walkways on the Pinellas Trail. None of these are very steep or
very long, just about right. The Pinellas Trail offers an outstanding
running surface away from the distraction of oncoming and cross cutting
traffic. The trail may seem desolate to some, but I found it to be a place
that allows concentration on the task at hand."
"All of this makes for a course that mere mortals like myself can really
let rip on. I know that I will be remembering and quietly thanking this
sweet course on my spring trip to Boston."
In addition, Gulf Beaches is sandwiched between Valentine’s Day on Friday
and President’s Day on Monday, allowing recovering runners to avoid burning
a vacation day while they relax Clearwater’s award-winning beach.
"The weather in central Florida in February is perfect for both distance
running and a mid-winter vacation,” Lauber added. “Combined with ideal
timing, our award-winning beaches, flat and scenic course, and growing
reputation as a well-organized race, we are confident our marathon will
continue to grow."
Despite the economy and the downturn in tourism after the events of last
September, 1,593 entrants from 46 states and 16 countries registered last
January, a substantial increase from its’ inaugural race with 635 entrants.
This year, early entries are on pace to increase participation beyond 2,000
entrants and "3,000 is not impossible," said Lauber. "We have been receiving
excellent reviews from our runners on the internet, word-of-mouth seems
strong, and we’ve just started our national marketing campaign."
For more information about the Florida Gulf Beaches Marathon, visit
http//:www.FloridaMarathon.com, call Lauber at (888) LIV-2RUN, or send him
an e-mail at Chris@FloridaMarathon.com.