By SCOTT PURKS | Tribune staff
Published: February 25, 2013
TAMPA --Sunday's Publix Super Markets Gasparilla Distance Classic 8k race was a walk in the park for Bobby Curtis, who just happens to be one of the fastest distance runners in the world.
No wonder Curtis' relative stroll led to a course record of 23 minutes, 30 seconds (4:43 a mile pace).
Several bystanders, however, wondered why Curtis was barreling down Bayshore Boulevard on a balmy Sunday without any serious competition.
"I needed a race tuneup," said Curtis, a 28-year-old sponsored by the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, the names of which were stretched across his chest. "Coming up I have the 15k U.S. Nationals [March 9th in Jacksonville] and the (10k World Championships in Moscow this summer)."
|Curtis went 23:30 CR at Gasparilla 8K|
"My coach told me to come over and run this race," said a smiling Curtis, who has run America's seventh-fastest 10,000 meters in 27:24. "It turned out to be a great decision because this is a very well-run race at a great venue."
Curtis handily beat Hansons-Brooks teammate Dustin Emerick, who cruised in as the runner-up in 24:28. The next closest finisher was Tampa's Jon Noland, 38, who followed in 26:37.
"I've never been to Tampa before but I think I'd like to come back," said Emerick, 23. "This (tuneup race) worked out really great. It's a beautiful city."
Curtis' time shattered the previous 8k record of 26.42 set last year by Oscar Orozco.
The only criticism from the leading visitors was that it was a bit hot, a sentiment echoed by the women's 8k champion, Gainesville's Stephanie McGrail, who finished in 32:07.
"I felt great starting out, but then the last few miles it started getting a little warm," said McGrail, 26. "At that point, though, I was just giving it everything I had."
McGrail admitted that she didn't expect to win Sunday's race because she hasn't been training extra hard and she came down to Tampa merely as part of a visit to her aunt, MaryAnn Gilbert, who lives on Davis Islands.
"At the starting line I was thinking a top-five finish might be nice," McGrail said. "It was a lot of fun to get out to the lead and then win. It turned out to be a great day