The News-Press, Febuary 28, 2019
by Ken Gooderham
On the same weekend? Probably not.
You may have noticed that next weekend features back-to-back halfs, with Saturday’s City of Palms half (and 5K) followed by Sunday’s Lazy Flamingo half (and relay).
How did this happen? Is this one of those “everyone reads the same marketing stats” that seems to guarantee there’s, say, a Walgreens right across the street from a CVS?
Not exactly. It’s more about nature (or race organizers) abhorring a void.
For a decade, the first weekend in March was host to the Hooters Half Marathon, a beloved race that raised a ton of money for local children’s charities and gave thousands the opportunity to run the streets of Fort Myers from Hooters out Colonial Blvd. toward the river, then down McGregor Blvd. to downtown, then back down U.S. 41 to Hooters.
However, Hurricane Irma and road construction along McGregor doomed the 2018 race. Another company tried to put on a half marathon – a couple of times, actually, eventually moving to the early March slot – but left a trail of unhappy runners behind in a wake of cancellations. Hooters eventually switched its sponsorship over to the River Roots and Ruts 10-mile trail run at Caloosahatchee Regional Park… and the March half-marathon void yawned ever wider.
Two different groups jumped in to fill that gap:
- Elite Events, a local event organizer that already offers a range of races in Southwest and South Florida, teed up the City of Palms Half, which starts and finishes on the FGCU campus and runs along Ben Hill Griffin Parkway to the Gulf Coast Town Center Saturday morning.
- Meanwhile, the Lazy Flamingo restaurant teamed with the nonprofit Fort Myers Track Club (who ran the original Hooters Half and hosts a full schedule of road races each year as the pre-eminent local running club) for the Lazy Flamingo Half on Sunday. It starts and finishes at the restaurant on McGregor, running through the Whiskey Creek community and along McGregor Blvd. almost to downtown before doubling back to return to the start.
Both are credible and experienced race organizers offering interesting (and time-limited) 13.1-mile courses. But can both events survive on a back-to-back schedule? Not likely.
Other Southwest Florida communities host multiple half marathons, Naples and Sarasota being the obvious examples. But not on the same weekend, competing for the same runners – even in the larger Lee County market.
One hopes both events are successful for their inaugural run… successful enough to keep both events coming back for 2020, but giving organizers an incentive to figure out how to separate them on the schedule so that both can thrive and prosper in their own niche. Runners (both locals and those seeking a destination event) would support both races, and having both halfs at different times would help the local racing schedule continue to evolve in terms of both types and distances of events available.
Lee County is ready for more longer running races, even with the challenging logistics of putting runners on overcrowded tourist-season roadways for longer periods of time than the typical 5K requires… and holding more challenging races during times when the temperatures are still tolerable.
Just not on the same weekend.
NOTE: If you’re driving in the vicinity of either half marathon this weekend, have some flexibility in your routes as both events will be using parts of the various public roads for the runners. That’s why both races have time limits… to limit the amount of time the roads are tied up.
Ready to ride or run?Run? As already mentioned, this weekend features two half marathons (both with shorter options), and there’s still time to sign up if you’re up for the distance; go to eliteevents.org or ftmyerstrackclub.com. After that, the schedule returns to the regular 5K lengths, starting with the Yo Taco Beach Shrimp Run March 9 (active.com).
Ride? Critical Mass ahead… the original downtown night ride is Friday night, with the Sanibel night ride March 9. Lights required, helmets recommended, details at meetup.com. Want more? The renowned Royal Palm Challenge returns March 9-10, with a new Saturday ride option of 32 or 42 miles, added to the traditional Sunday rides of 15, 40, 62 and 80 miles. Details and registration at caloosariders.org.
Both? Upcoming events include:
- Saturday, May 11: Cape Coral Sprint Tri (trifind.com)
- Saturday, May 18: Life’s a Beach Tri, Sarasota (trifind.com)
- Sunday, June 2: 33rd Annual Fitness Challenge Triathlon, Naples (trifind.com)
- Sunday, June 9: Heartland Sprint and Olympic Tri, Sebring (trifind.com)
- Sunday, June 23: Sirens Sprint Tri, Sarasota (trifind.com)
- Willing to drive? Check trifind.com or active.com for tris around the state.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.