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Running with purpose

By Staff | Oct 19, 2012

CAROL ORR HARTMAN Runners take their first strides at first light for a competitive, cool breezy race in the morning sun last Saturday.

Fewer than the predicted 400 runners participated, but last weekend’s 10K Race for FISH (Friends In Service Here) could not have expected better weather conditions.

Temperatures in the low 70s with a slight cooling breeze from the northeast, low humidity and a bright sun bathed the 389 runners, untold hundreds of spectators, city dignitaries and 135 race volunteers with a comfortable morning experience.

Fort Myers resident Ryan Stafford, 19, was the first to cross the start/finish line at the Community House on Periwinkle Way. He ran the looping island course in just 35 minutes, 17 seconds. The first female finisher was Rachel Lee, 42, of Cape Coral, who was timed by the Fort Myers Track Club in 39:14.

Allison Goss, 45 of Sanibel won the female masters division, 60th overall, with a time of 48:22. Nancy Earle, 52, of Sanibel (48:53) raced to the female grand master title and 65th overall.

Sanibel youths Darren Jenkins, 3, and Claire Kipsaw, 8, claimed honors in their respective 9-under divisions. Jenkins was the youngest registered participant.

“I was pleased to see that we had the highest percentage of Sanibel runners this year than ever before,” said event co-chairman John Pryor. “I noticed that as I was handing out the awards afterwards.”

All runners received a commemorative medallion as they crossed the finish line. Age division and other awards were handed out, but not all runners knew or stayed for the awards.

“Winners who did not receive their sand dollar shell award can pick them up at the FISH walk-in center on Periwinkle Way,” said Pryor.

Three other Sanibel residents won age division titles. Rachel Varnes, 26, won the women’s 25-29 in 41:58, Peter Westlake, 51, took the men’s 50-54 (40:08) and Lavonne Larson, 58, captured the women’s 55-59 division (54:02).

“The weather was relatively cool,” said Pryor. “For the runners it was ideal to run in. Running around Sanibel is different than running on a golf course somewhere and they enjoy that.”

As has become the custom, much of the island community throws out the red carpet to welcome runners, their families and friends and casual visitors each year. It’s estimated about 75 percent of the runners live off island.

Runners started at the Community House. They headed east on Periwinkle Way to Casa Ybel Road, then south and west along West Gulf Drive to Tarpon Bay Road. After making hairpin detour on Island Inn Road, runners got back on Periwinkle at Bailey’s Center for the final jog back to the finish at Community House.

Refreshment tables and water stations were set up around the 6.2-mile course for runners.

“It was euphoric,” said Pryor. “It was very well organized this year. It’s one of our larger event fundraisers for the year. We are so appreciative of all the support from the businesses. We won’t know exactly how much money was raised for several weeks yet, but it was very successful. It’s not only a fundraiser, but a fun raiser.”

Pryor will meet with his 10-member 10K committee in the weeks ahead to review the race.

“We always write down things that come up and what we can do to improve there,” said Pryor. “We do get better at it each year.”

FISH serves Sanibel and Captiva residents with a number of services from transportation to emergency financial assistance. With an army of 200 volunteers, FISH helped 750 people last year through its food pantry, meal delivery, and health equipment programs.

This year’s event garnered support from 56 business sponsors throughout the community.

For a complete list of the race results visit www.ftmyerstrackclub.com.