My First Trail Run
I've been wanting to try a trail run, and this event seemed like a good introduction to running a race on dirt and sandy trails.
Weedon Island Preserve is located in the NE corner of St. Petersburg, FL. The 3,100 acre nature preserve is run by Pinellas County. It includes a history center, nature trails, and canoe/kayak launch. It's a gorgeous piece of paradise on Tampa Bay.
This is my race recap. Detailed race review —> 2015 Weedon Island Trail 8k.
I picked up my packet on Friday night at the Fit2Run store in downtown St. Pete. The shirt was short sleeved blue tech material with navy blue printing. Ladies received a v-neck shirt, and guys a traditional round neckline. The packet included the shirt, a bib, and lots of offers from local businesses that sponsor the race.
Packet pick up was available on site before the race, beginning at 6:45 a.m.
I arrived early on race morning because I wanted to park near the history center. The center was open so runners could use the restrooms.
I strolled around for a while. The weather was a perfect 70º with low humidity. Half an hour before the race I put bug spray on my ankles, and sunscreen everywhere else. The sun rose in a cloudless blue sky, so I waited in the shade for the race to begin.
This race was different in lots of ways — all good. It felt calm, low key. The number of participants was limited to about 200 because of the venue. That's the smallest race I've run.
A few minutes before 9 am, everyone gathered at the starting line. There were some announcements, and then we were off and running. The race began on a paved section of the trail, and then headed into the preserve.
Interesting Nature Trails
Soon after the start, we were running single file. The trails were narrow, and often runners were moving in both directions. It was interesting. The loops in the course meant you saw the same people over and over again.
My favorite part of the race was running through a tunnel of Mangroves and mature trees next to Tampa Bay. I had to watch my step because there were lots of roots, ruts and dips in the trail. But, as much as I could, I peeked through the Mangroves to look at the water.
After the dirt trail, we ran on sand covered with pine needles and pine cones. Some sections were packed hard, but others were softer sand. After the sand we ran on boardwalks. I liked running on the harder surface, but the trade off was that the boardwalk was in full sun and had an incline.
Somewhere in the last mile, the boardwalk led to the observation tower. Yep, the 3-story observation tower. Everyone had to climb the tower, ring the bell on the top level, smile for the camera, and then descend to finish the race.
I remember asking the photographer if perhaps this would have been a better idea at the start of the race. He just laughed. If you run this race, please pause at the top of the tower and absorb the view. It's beautiful.
Runners were told at the start that they were responsible for recording their finishing time. As each runner crossed the finish line they noted their time on the digital display, then wrote it on a ballot at the scoring table. It wasn't high tech, but it didn't need to be.
There were no finisher medals. All the prizes were donated by local businesses. That was more than okay, since we were all running the race to support Weedon Island Preserve. All proceeds benefit the preserve.
The post race party was right next to the finish line in an open field. Food was donated by local restaurants, and it was tasty. There was water and sports drinks. Runners received a free beer coupon, and were encouraged to visit a local brewery later in the day to redeem it.
I was so impressed with the volunteers at this race. They took tons of photos and made them available on the Friends of Weedon Island Facebook page a couple of weeks later. The volunteers on the course were friendly and made sure no one took a wrong turn. I really appreciate that.
Fun First Trail Run
If you'd like to try a trail race, I recommend this one. It's just under 5 miles and takes place in a beautiful setting. I know I'll run it again as often as possible.
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Feb. 25-26, 2023