Thursday, November 22, 2018

Longing for a longer race?

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, 11/22/2018
by Ken Gooderham

Some of you may be reading this after enjoying one of the many 5Ks offered on Turkey Day.  (If you’re an early riser and ready to run, check out the local races on the adjacent list.)

If the Turkey Trot inspired you to look at more events and longer distances, you’re in luck. Our area is seeing an explosion of half marathons this season, starting with the Fall Classic Half held in Naples last weekend.

Half marathons are one of the fastest growing distances in running events… enough of a challenge to make you work for it, but not so much that training takes over your life. It also is a more manageable distance for both course distances and event times (compared to a marathon, at least), which is important if you need to use public roadways for your race course.

With this proliferation of halfs comes a desire (actually, a need) to make each event special (or at least different). That means a number of unique venues or features meant to make the race memorable (and to draw destination racers if possible). So you can pick a race that appeals to you in many different ways – from where you run to where you finish and the sights along the way, as well as the cause or nonprofit you’re running to support.

Speaking of different approaches, there are also a variety of training plans you can choose and use to get ready for your 13.1 miles of fun. Even though the distance is feasible for many runners, it’s still something you need to build toward… unless you’re already a committed distance runner (which means this is old news to you and you can move on to the Black Friday ads).

Once up on a time, you had just two half-marathon choices in Southwest Florida: The Naples Daily Hews Half (usually in January) in Naples and the Hooters Half (usually in March) in Fort Myers. (Hooters dropped the half after its 2017 running and has switched to sponsoring the River, Roots & Ruts 10-miler in Alva.)

No such limitations on choices this year… here are the races you can pick from locally:

  • Sunday, Dec. 9: Florida West Coast Half Marathon and 5K at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota ( The hook here is the finish, dubbed the “Final Floating Mile” where you run across the centerpiece lake at the park.
  • Sunday, Jan. 20: Naples Daily News Half Marathon at Cambier Park, Naples ( Aside from running through some of the most expensive real estate on the Southwest Florida coast, this one also features cash prizes for open division and age groupers… so expect a lot of fast contestants.
  • Sunday, Feb. 3: Sarasota Music Half Marathon, downtown Sarasota ( Starts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center and runs out over the Ringling Causeway on Sarasota Bay to St. Armands Circle and back through south-of-downtown neighborhoods… also with a lot of bands along the race course to serenade or inspire you.
  • Sunday, Feb. 17: Paradise Coast Half Marathon and 5K, Lely Resort, Naples ( The finish here is at the Florida Sports Park, renowned for its swamp buggy races.
  • Saturday, March 2: City of Palms Half Marathon & 5K, Florida Gulf Coast University ( Its first year, one of the two halfs looking to pick up the mantle of the Hooters Half. It winds through the campus and some adjacent neighborhoods east of the interstate.
  • Sunday March 3: Lazy Flamingo Half Marathon and Relay, Fort Myers ( The other Hooters replacement, which winds through a few South Fort Myers neighborhoods and up McGregor before returning to the start/finish at the sponsoring restaurant.
  • Sunday, March 17: Marco Island Half Marathon & 5K, Marco Island ( This one features two high-bridge crossings (yes, actual hills of the manmade variety) and a lot of water views.
  • Sunday, March 24: First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay, downtown Sarasota ( This event also takes you across Sarasota Bay to St. Armands, but the course heads further north from its Van Wezel starting point.

If you’re willing to travel, check out where you’ll find a half marathon almost every weekend… at least until the temperatures start to rise again and runners (and events geared for them) head indoors or up north.

So Happy Thanksgiving… sign up for a half and use that as your excuse for an extra helping of turkey today!

Ready to ride or run?

Run?  There are Turkey Trots galore this morning, in Cape Coral (the oldest event of the day), Estero, FGCU and Naples… but if you haven’t already registered you may not be able to get in (check their websites). If you missed your chance today, the next races will be Dec. 1 – the 10K River Run in downtown Fort Myers and a 5K run/walk in Naples. Info at,,, and

Ride? A Critical Mass slow roll on Saturday morning might be a good choice to rouse you from a turkey-induced stupor. Should you need a more rigorous effort to counteract your holiday indulgences, there’s the annual Iron Joe Turkey Ride with distances up to 62 miles on Sunday, along with the Wakey, Wakey! Rides that morning (and most Sunday mornings). Critical Mass returns to the streets of Cape Coral on Friday, Nov. 30, for its traditional night ride (lights required, helmets recommended). Finally, the local Trek stores are offering a Poker Ride Sunday, Dec. 2, with an 80-mile poker ride, and 4-mile blackjack ride and a 10-mile fun ride. Critical Mass details at , the Iron Joe ride can be found at, and the Trek details are at

Both? Upcoming events include:
  • Sunday, Dec. 16: Christmas Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon, Sugden Regional Park, Naples (
  • Jan. 6, 2019: HITS Triathlon Series, with sprint, Olympic and half-Ironman distances. Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota (
  • Willing to drive? Check or for tris around the state.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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