My Gusty Gasparilla Marathon

Although I was mentally ready for the race, physically I was not prepared for 20-30 mph winds and freezing cold rain during the Gasparilla marathon.


For the first few miles, we ran over dark cobblestone roads through downtown Tampa into Davis Island.  Although  running on brick was new to me, I felt comfortable running in the dark.  Not knowing where my feet would land was a familiar, uneasy feeling.


For most of the race, I stayed ahead of the 4:45/11:20 pace group, but behind the 4:30/10:18.  Despite the wind, my pace sat at 10:30.  I knew I would do great as long as the 11:20 pace group remained well behind me. 


At about 8:00, the rain hit and I thought to myself, Wow.  The rain came earlier than projected.  Then at 9:00 a.m., the skies opened and the real thunderstorms came.  The rain prior was a mere drizzle in comparison.


Between miles 10-16, I paced with some really amazing runners.  I bumped into Beth, a friend of Becelisa.  Gasparilla was Beth’s second marathon and like me, she had completed the Disney marathon last month.  


At mile 13, I stopped for my first Cliff Shot break and accidentally spilled water on Carey from North Carolina.  After apologizing for my clumsiness, I paced with Carey for the next few miles and learned Gasparilla was her fourth marathon with her last marathon being the Arizona marathon a little over a month ago.  




During our run together, Carey and I also encountered an older gentlemen who was running in his 46th marathon and had finished the New Orleans marathon just a few weeks prior.  At about mile 16, Carey, the gentlemen and I parted our ways when I needed pop into a port-o-potty to pee.


During my second Cliff Shot break at mile 18, I texted Allan at 9:33 to boast about my incredible time.  Even with sheets of freezing cold rain and the wind against me, my spirits were up and I felt good physically and mentally.  I felt confident that I would finish the race under 5 hours.


Then, without any warning, at mile 21 my knee buckled.  Oh God! No!  Why is this happening?  I walked it off and stretched for a few minutes.  That’s when I spotted the 11:20 pace group coming ’round the bend.


“Shake it off.  You can do this! C’mon Girl!  Pull it together!” I told myself over and over to push me ahead of the 11:20 pace once again.


Then, like a bad omen, my iPod short circuited from all the rain at about mile 22.  Nooooooooo!  For the love of God, Noooooo!   Fidgeting with my ipod, I tried to reboot the music and my energy as the 11:20 pace group passed me.  


I shut down and cried as the rain fell once more.


I walked some more and tried to gain my composure.  It’s o.k.  You’re doing great.  You’re going to make it at 5 hours.  It’s only four more miles. You can do this!  Only 4 more!


Then, the rain stopped and the sun broke though the clouds.  I felt compelled to start running again and even attempted to sing since my iPod was kaput.  I sang my own version of I Can See Clearly


I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

I can see all obstacles in my way

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

It’s gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day

Oh yes I can make it now the…pain…is…g…gone

All of the bad…f…feelings…have…dis..a..ppeared…


Unfortunately, my poor song selection caused me to start crying again which then caused me to hyperventilate.  While walking once more, I talked myself out of the episode and I spotted some port-o-pots.  I decided to take a potty break to pull myself together and gain some composure to finish the race.


After my potty break, I felt ready to run and ready to finish.  Although my pace had slowed down tremendously to 12:20, I knew it could finish.


“Perseverance!” A runner shouted from behind me. “I love it!  Keep it up, Girl.  You’re doing great!”


A tidal wave of tears came back again, but I swallowed it down like a tough dose of medicine.  Perseverance prevailed even though the pavement on the Bayshore Bridge cut through my legs like shattering glass and unavoidable puddles drenched my already soaked feet.


The last 4 miles were the toughest.    The rain chased away the spectators.  There were no musicians or DJs to keep us going.  With isolation, I had no other runners’ energy to feed off of to keep me moving.  Only the wind remained to carry me home.


In the distance, I could hear a crowd cheering for runners as they passed.  I knew I was close to the end.


At mile 24, I came upon the source of the cheers.  A group of kids from Let Me Play cheered and roared for each runner as they passed.  A few of the young boys gave me high-5s as I stumbled passed them.  “You’re almost there.  You’re doing great,” cheered one of the sponsors as he gave me my final high-5.


Somehow in the last two miles, I found my second wind and picked up my pace.  For the last half mile, I bounced back to my usual 9:30 pace. 


When I crossed the finish line, I sobbed.  I beat my Disney time and a new PB: 5:09:04.




  1. Lacey says:

    way to push through! your photo at the end doesn’t show what you went through at all- you are strong to stick with it, despite the obstacles and the emotion. what did you take away/learn from this? i’m soooooooooooo scared of my first marathon, which is why i have to do it.

  2. Run DMT says:

    Thanks, Lacey! 🙂

    I learned I had no business being out in that weather! LOL Seriously though, I think if I ever read about those weather conditions for my next race, I’ll choose to stay in bed! 😛 I’m a fair weather camper AND runner, too. LOL

    I also learned how important spectators are to runners. I need to pay it forward some day and cheer for other marathoners. As much as I hate rain, I think I need to be out there for them because in those conditions, they need the support even more. I wish my family and my DH could have been there for me.

    I also learned that I CAN do a marathon under 5 hours and I will DO another marathon to prove it to myself. I read somewhere that the winds had added about 15 minutes to many runners’ times. When I heard that, it just broke my heart.

    At least I beat Katie Holmes, right? 😉

  3. morethananelectrician says:

    That is what I am afraid of happening to me since I am not prepared. I try to tell people who haven’t run about the mental aspect to the whole running thing…

    Good job…really!!!!

    I shouldn’t have read this one…now I am terrified since I have a physical condition that has been keeping me from training this week.

  4. aron says:

    WOW what a race!! way to push through those really tough spots and make it to the finish line and PR!!! congrats on another marathon finish, especially in such tough conditions!

  5. Brian says:

    Great job pushing through to the end. I’m so proud of you for achieving a PB in those conditions. You actually have my PB in the marathon beat by almost 20 minutes now. You can hold that over me until next year’s Gasparilla marathon.

  6. the Zookeeper says:

    Denise, wasn’t that the absolute worst conditions? It proves there’s a reason we slog through and do runs in bad conditions in training, though. And, yes, I was so thankful to all the people who were out there in that awful, awful cold wet stuff!

    Hey, my family was out there and I didn’t get a single picture! You look great, btw–I know what you ran in, and you look–well, not like I know you must have felt!

    Congrats on a personal best on an environmental worst!

  7. Denise W says:

    Wow…great job Denise. Those sound like the worst conditions EVER to run in….but at least there were no clowns!!! 🙂
    You’re the best….

  8. Margaret says:

    Awesome job!! BTW, nice medal!
    I give you a lot of credit running in the 30s and wind and being from Florida is not easy. I’ll be there this weekend for the Disney Princess Half but the weather should be much better.
    I’m so happy that you like my display rack it’s just a curtain rod I picked up at Wal-mart and couple oversized cup hooks that i screwed in right to the wall. It works great plus it expands the more medals you have and you can always move them around.
    I would be honored if you link to my page.

  9. becelisa says:

    i am so proud of you for perservering in what were unbelievably harsh conditions. the rain started in my last half mile or so and though i was so thankful i was only doing the half my heart was still out there with you and everyone else doing the full. i stayed down there to see in every last runner in my group and was amazing at the strength i saw out there. i’m not sure i could have pushed through and beaten the wind and rain. you are truly amazing!

  10. Carri says:

    Hello Denise,
    it is Carri from North Carolina! Somehow in my tired running fog, I remembered your website and googled you when I got back. Sorry to hear that the last few miles were so tough but those kinds of runs only make us stronger! Great job on the finish. My first marathon was a 5:22 time so your 5:09 is really great! I slowed down a bit after you stopped at the port a pot; wanted to stay with you if possible. Looked for you all the way to the end but just didn’t see you. I hooked up with a young guy for the last 2 miles and we really helped each other pull through. I actually sprinted the last 1/8 mile or so as I was determined to come in under 5:00 this time. It was great chatting with you; my best mile of the whole race was the mile that we hooked up; a 9:41 mm. Thanks! I may do it again next year so perhaps we could run together if you have any plans of doing it again!!!

  11. Beth says:

    Hey Denise! Way to go. Great to meet you. I too beat my Disney time – what an awesome feeling that is.

    Hope to see you at another race soon.

  12. Rick S. says:

    Great job !!! I was out there with you through that mess. This was my first marathon. It took me a year to train for this run and was not going to give up. It was defenitely brutal. My shoes were soaked and I had a blister on the bottom of my right foot. I finished at 4:55 so you and I must have passed each other a few times. I’m glad you stuck with it.

  13. lindsay says:

    wow congrats! great race and congrats on the pr! i am impressed that you stuck it out in the rain, although i know you wouldn’t have wimped out anyway. i love that you sang and definitely lol’d at your hyperventilation after the performance. (sorry) maybe you should have switched to a tune from the sound of music! 🙂 congrats again on a great job. love the post-race pic, you don’t even look tired!! not fair!

  14. JohnB says:

    Hi Denise,

    I too ran that marathon, my number is 14519. I was telling my friends back here in Boston that this was the worst weather conditions I have ever run in.

    I’ll be running the Boston marathon next week. After surviving Gasparilla, I feel I can survive any marathon.

    Grats to you!!

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