TAMPA – In a few weeks, they will be running the Gasparilla 8K run. Three months ago, they could barely run for 60 seconds.
Members of the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA running club are preparing for the Feb. 23 Gasparilla race. For most of this crew, it started slowly. But Josh Hankins, a triathlete, started working with his runners and has seen improvement, literally a step at a time.
It started with a core group of about 10 people. They came from all demographics, all ages, and started to meet at the YMCA ever Monday and Thursday at 8:15 a.m. At first, they’d run for 60 seconds around the Tampa Bay Trail, then walk for 60 seconds. After catching their breath, they’d repeat.
Hankins said that while it wasn’t like a boot camp, eventually, there was less walking and more running.
“A lot of the people have never run before,” Hankins said. “They came together and formed a group. They were exhausted the first time, but they got excited and kept at it.”
The Gasparilla runners are actually one of three groups that Hankins trains. He also deals with intermediate runners and advanced runners who are looking to log some serious miles.
But preparing for a race this long is a challenge. The first major step came in December, when the group ran the 3.1K Jingle Bell run to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. It was a great start, Hankins said, and he believes the group will be ready for the longer run.
“Running can be very intimidating,” Hankins said. “It’s a great challenge and it can be addictive. Some people who hate running at the start become borderline fanatical.”
With less than a month before the Gasparilla Run, the members are starting to plot out the next step. Hankins said they have bonded as friends and plan to stick together after the race, and are debating, as a group, whether to run longer distances or try to achieve better times.
“They have formed a bond that is really great,” Hankins said. “They show up every morning early and have a great time doing it. Running is great because all you really need are shoes. Some sports can be expensive, but this is easy and something they can enjoy for life.”
For more on the YMCA running groups, call the Northwest Hillsborough YMCA at (813) 249-8510.