Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column:Runs, walks and rides abound in our backyard

There’s no doubt we’re in the high-season locally for those who run, walk and cycle. Here’s a quick review of what you missed if you didn’t make one or another of these popular events:

We can finally say we have a marathon in Southwest Florida. Almost 100 runners completed the Mangrove Marathon in Cape Coral on Dec. 18, with a more than 100 more taking part in the coinciding half marathon. Although there were many event management hiccups and shortcomings, it nonetheless came off successfully. And for some, the fact that it is a certified course that serves as a Boston Marathon qualifier means a lot less travel and expense in a quest to run the grand-daddy of all marathons.

Throughout December, Lee County hosted the Florida Senior Games state championships for the final year of a multi-year agreement. The 31st annual City of Palms River Run 10K on Dec. 4 was also the qualifier for FSG nationals in Houston next year. Local running legend Perry Small not only won his age group but beat his own recordsetting time from last year by finishing 6.2-miles in 35:03, a blistering pace for any age. Another seven FSG age group records were set that morning.

Back to Perry: He finished in third place overall among more thanth o 300 runners, just over one minute behind local “non-senior” speedster John Biffar, who won the race in 33:53. Among women, a number of locals qualified for the nationals, including local legend Astrid Soll and Cindy Matthews-Low, both age group record-setters.

Cycling events were also part of FSG earlier this month. In the 5K and 10K time trials, Caloosa Rider Mike Swanson was among the Lee County residents who won their age group, and a few other locals qualified for nationals as well. A couple of days later, and with weather that can only be called miserable, an astounding number of athletes who refused to let conditions deter them competed in the 20K and 40K road races, with a small number of locals qualifying for nationals.

The annual Heart Walk attracted more than 4,000 people of all ages, shapes and sizes to Centennial Park on a course that took them over and back the Edison Bridge. A very foggy morning did little to dissuade anyone, including Lee Memorial Health System leader and budding stand-up comedian Jim Nathan as well as event sponsor Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle.

Finally, more than 300 runners of all ages and abilities came out to support Fort Myers High School boys cross country team Coach Yancey Palmer and his family, whose home burned down in November. The 5K race was run on and around campus and was more like a real cross country race rather than a regular road race. The support displayed by the running community and others was outstanding.

Upcoming in the new year are two half marathons that are radically different but both excellent events due to stellar race management and sponsorship. First up is the very challenging River Roots & Ruts Half-Marathon, taking runners through much of Caloosahatchee Regional Park — including its single-track mountain bike trails — on Sunday, Jan. 9. Sign up now as the race has a cap on the number of participants. Then, on March 6, it’s time for the annual Hooters-to-Hooters Half-Marathon. I’ll have more on that event in future columns.

Lee County Department of Transportation will be making a presentation to the
Bonita City Council about proposed improvements on Hickory Boulevard at the city’s Jan. 5 meeting at 5 p.m. If you’d like to see paved shoulders and bike lanes added to that popular cycling road, attend the meeting or at least contact the city beforehand and express your support. Go to BikeWalkLee's Blog for details.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/ trainer and program manager for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be reached at or 334- 6417.

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