By Tamas Mondovics

Promising to see the largest turnout and effectively breaking attendance records, the 2016 Annual Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Race Weekend is on track to reach sell out status in all four of the event’s popular road races.

Over the years the race has proudly managed to draw a huge crowd of runners and walkers from all over the world to raise funds for, and to benefit charitable youth organizations and running programs in the Tampa Bay area.

According to event organizers, this year’s large number of registered participants point to a clear sign that since its 1978 debut, the nearly four-decade-old celebration of health and wellness still plays a major part in the lives of Bay area residents.

“Our growth speaks volumes as to how much the Tampa Bay community loves and respects the Race Weekend Event,” Race Director Susan Harmeling said just weeks before the event. “There is a distance for everyone—every age and every fitness level.”

To date the event, which is named after the Gasparilla Pirate Festival (held a few weeks earlier), has raised more than $3.2 million and saw nearly half a million runners and walkers cross the finish line including last year’s all-time record total participation of 31,009.

The four races, including the 15k (9.3 miles) race, 5k (3.1 miles), Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and 8k (5 miles) are scheduled for the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 20 and 21 in downtown Tampa.

To maintain the integrity, quality and safety in each race, the event’s Board of Directors have set registration limits, and the remaining number of openings are quickly running out. Harmeling said that many runners have signed up to compete in two or more of the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic races as part of the Michelob Ultra “Challenge” divisions. Reaching capacity, organizers were prompted to closed registration.

To help support and promote such a large turnout, the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association, which donates proceeds to local charities, will once again feature the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center on Friday, February 19 at 10 a.m. in the East and Central Hall of the Convention Center where pre-registered participants can pick up their race packet.

Remaining slots are available for registration at

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