Florida Holiday Races
By Elyse Lewis
It’s been clear since shoppers began pouring into stores for Black Friday sales that the Christmas season is well under way. But there are plenty still looking for that authentic moment to bring some much needed holiday cheer into the last of this year. To get it, they may need some running shoes because the 13th Annual Florida Holiday Half-a-thon is scheduled for this Sunday, December 14 and will stretch from Madeira Beach to Taylor Park in Largo. Athletes are encouraged to dress up for the race in holiday outfits and even meet Santa when he arrives to hand out awards.
Race director, Chris Lauber stated, “1,700 entrants are challenging themselves.” Also for those traveling on the road this weekend he did want to remind folks that, “There will be some road restrictions on Gulf Boulevard between Madeira Beach and Indian Shores and also on Oakhurst Road in Seminole. Specifically, the northbound, curbside lane on Gulf Boulevard will be closed to vehicular traffic, though all other lanes will be open to vehicles. On Oakhurst, we will be using the westbound lane, but eastbound traffic will not be affected at all.”
The race is supported by 7 cities, Florida Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard and a variety of volunteering individuals and groups that will help pass out water and Gatorade along the route.
Among the runners participating this weekend will be one, Mike Smith. Mike is known throughout the community for helping form ActiveNation for Ataxia Awareness to increase consciousness and funding for a cure to the debilitating disease. In his interview he explained, “This year is quite unique. In September 2014, I was diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia and Friedreich’s ataxia. Spinocerebellar ataxia is a fatal, progressive, degenerative, genetic neuromuscular disease that is quickly taking away my ability to walk, run and live a normal life. Some days I must use a wheelchair. However, I am inspired by other para-athletes, and I step away from my cane/walker and out of my wheelchair to continue to run, to raise awareness and donations to find a cure for all of us suffering from ataxia. Since my diagnosis, I’ve run The Space Coast Marathon and the Savannah Rock and Roll half marathon and although they were physically painful and challenging, they were very rewarding as I overcame the obstacles of my disabilities to cross the finish lines.” Mike added that, “Since 2011, I’ve run 6 marathons, 25 half marathons, 4 triathlons, and more 15Ks, 10Ks and 5Ks than I can count. Every race has been a memory. As my doctors and neurologists say, use them before you lose them. Everyone should take the opportunity to get out there and enjoy the ability to exercise and run. Time is precious. You never know how much time you truly have. Enjoy every step. Cherish every moment. Savor every breath! Get out there and run!”
If you think Mike’s drive is admirable, then Jodi Stoner’s journey will touch your heart. She began by explaining her nickname saying, “People call me ‘Run Jodi’. This year will be my 12th time running this event and my 72nd half marathon. I belong to an amazing group called “I Run 4” and was matched with a special needs child who lives in Mississippi. His name is River and he has spina bifida but spina bifida doesn’t have him. River is unable to run for now, so I run ‘4’ him. I dedicate my miles, races and victories all to River. I’m going to meet him for the first time in January 2015. I can’t wait! River inspires me! He faces challenges every single day and is always a winner. I want to be a winner for him.”
Jodi finished by stating, “The half marathon is my favorite distance. Most of my race events have been local but I’ve run in Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Miami, Texas, Key West, Disney and a few other places. I especially like the Holiday Half-a-thon because the course is good and the starfish medal is the coolest! I encourage every person who can, to get a pair of running shoes and take that first step. It’s changed my life and blessed me in so many ways. I never thought a sport could change my entire outlook on life. Then, I became a runner.”
The only remaining question is what are you waiting for? Find out more about the holiday half-a-thon online at FloridaHolidayHalfathon.com.