Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Shake up your running/walking routines with special events

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 2/28/18

Lee Waller takes a training climb up Oasis Tower in Fort Myers, before the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Stair Climb. COURTESY PHOTO
It wasn’t so many years ago that there were a limited number of local running races open to the general public. That’s changed, perhaps to the point of saturation. For those seeking other options, I can make some suggestions. First, a quick bit of Lee County’s running history.

The now-defunct Lehigh Spring Fest 4-Miler is considered our area’s first organized run, originating in 1977. With that one gone, the race that’s now the oldest and still taking place is River Run, which started out as the Lee Memorial Hospital Run in 1978, conducted for the hospital by Fort Myers Track Club in its first year of existence. This December will be the 40th running of this event. It’s my hope that Lee Health will once again take ownership of the event that started our community’s running craze - a craze that’s still going strong.
This time of year there are sometimes two or three running/walking events on the same weekend. For those seeking something different, there are interesting options. One is the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Stair Climb on Saturday, April 28, near downtown Fort Myers. ALA conducts competitive stair climbs throughout the U.S. The Fort Myers event is the only one between Tampa and Miami. Oasis Tower, the climb venue, is 31 stories, not much less than Orlando’s 38 stories and Miami’s 42 stories. The most ambitious of ALA’s climbs in the Southeast is 55 stories, in Atlanta. Most are in the 30- 40-story range, so the Fort Myers climb is a very respectable challenge.

While no doubt challenging, 31 stories shouldn’t be as intimidating as it may appear. The fastest climbers complete it in under four minutes, the average person in five to 12 minutes, and fully equipped firefighters and SWAT team members in 4½ to 10 minutes. A number of folks dealing with asthma and other lung conditions complete the 31-story climb each year as well. Anyone who has run or walked a 5K or even two miles will be able to finish in much less time than it would take to complete those distances, and with essentially the same health benefits. How fast or slow climbers go is up to them - climbers are sent off individually with a gap between each, but there’s plenty of room to pass or be passed. Open practices are held each Saturday morning in March and April until event day on April 28.

For those who like off-road running there’s River Ruts and Roots Half-Marathon and 5K on the trails of the Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva. In my opinion, this is trail running at its best, at least in the southern peninsular of Florida. Thanks to the Mudcutters bike club, which built and maintain the singletrack bike trails that are the most challenging part of the half-marathon, folks come from near and far to take part. The 5K, while not as technical as the halfmarathon, traverses beautiful foot trails along the Caloosahatchee River. RRR usually takes place in early January but because of damage from Hurricane Irma the date was moved to March 4 this year. See for more about this excellent running event.

The upcoming Shrimp Run 5K (March 10; places participants in the unusual position of having a large spectator field awaiting the parade that immediately follows the race. And if you’ve never been inside an inflatable giant colon (yes, an inflatable giant colon) you can experience it at the Scope for Hope 5K ( on March 24 at Hammond Stadium. Then there’s the dog-friendly Fast & Furriest 5K on April 7 at Hammond Stadium ( Finally, the Turtle Trot 5K (, a trail run within the gem that is Lover Key State Park, takes place on May 12.

For those who prefer two wheels, another alternative is Critical Mass rides. These are not traditional group rides. There are no breakaways or possibility of being left behind when others speed away as if they were racing - this is all about having fun at a reasonable pace (8-10 mph). And because most are night rides, tricking out bikes with lights makes these outings parade-like, thus adding to the fun factor. Critical Mass rides take place from downtown Fort Myers, south Cape Coral, Fort Myers Shores and Sanibel Island. For dates and other details, visit, where you’ll find other more traditional rides as well. ¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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