Women's Half Marathon
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 4 of 7 › view all entries
Women's Running Magazine sponsored their inaugural half-marathon and 5k race in 2009 in St. Petersburg, Florida. As soon as I heard about this race, I knew I had to add it to my list. St. Pete is one of my former hometowns, a fantastic city, with much to offer in terms of sightseeing and activities. I also knew the course would be flat as it was bayside and running flat is always good!
For my fourth race, I was only able to attract two race buddies - my faithful mom and friend Ed. They flew in from a diving trip to Honduras and met me in St. Pete late the night before and ran the race slightly jet lagged. I had picked up the race packets the day before at the Expo held in the beautiful Vinoy hotel, a St. Pete landmark. This Expo was one of the best I've seen, with numerous vendors and great products available for sale - all race related.
The 13.1 mile course started in downtown St. Pete and travelled past the Marina and the Pier, through the beautiful Snell Island neighborhood, and through the Tropicana Stadium. There were water views almost the entire way and it was a gorgeous day - definitely the most pleasant of my 4 half marathons!
The finish line at Albert Whitted Park had the requisite photographers and mingling racers, but post race events were disappointing.
After a typically wonderful lunch of tuna steak, we cleaned up and tooled around Gulfport, a neat neighborhood/artist colony with shops, restaurants and bars. After more carbo boosting at O'Maddy's pub overlooking Boca Ciega Bay, we crashed until dinner at a Pinellas Park Brazilian restaurant, Terra Mar, which has genuine Brazilian barbeque at an extremely reasonable price.
The day after the race we spent some time at Pass-A-Grille, the best beach town in the area by my standards with pristine sand, beautiful dunes, unique shops and restaurants. Close to Pass-A-Grille is Fort DeSoto, the largest park in the area and "America's Top Beach in 2009". Fort DeSoto Park not only has beaches, including a dog beach, but as the name suggests it has historical significance as a World War II gunnery and bombing range. My favorite part of Fort DeSoto is the tremendous trail system of 7 miles where one can rollerblade, bike or run.
In the afternoon, we went kayaking in Clam Bayou Nature Park in Gulfport with Kurt Zuelsdorf . Kurt runs tours of the Bayou out of a Gulfport shop called The Outpost. An ardent conservationist and supporter of the Bayou, Kurt gives a great tour chock full of information about the flora & fauna found in this unique habitat.
But, we weren't finished yet. The following day we drove up to Crystal River to swim with the West Indian manatee. Another completely awesome experience, I've written a review of it here.
For me and Jac, this was a perfect visit to St. Pete and Gulfport, the area we know and love so well. For Ed, it was just a brief introduction to this wonderful tourist destination. Find it yourself and explore - the sand, the sea, the sky and all that inhabit it.