Inland from its great beaches, Florida also has some great running trails.
Those trails will be on display again in 2013 and ‘14, when the XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series returns to the XTERRA Trail Run Series schedule.
All of the races will take place in or near the Tampa area of the state.
Florida Series director Jim Hartnett noted that trail runs have been popular in Tampa for more than a decade, so joining the XTERRA U.S. Trail Run Series in 2011 was a natural progression. “I think it is being well received because the numbers look pretty good so far,” he said.
In lieu of high-elevation mountain trails in the area, the Florida races will take place in wilderness parks that will offer various challenges. The opening race, for example, will traverse along trails at Keith Waller and Sydney/Dover parks.
Eric Koenig, who grew up in Colorado and is now a graduate student at South Florida, said the trails in the XTERRA Florida Series should not be underestimated.
“I'm originally from Boulder, Colorado, and am used to running in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and figured that most trail running in Florida would be flat and non-technical,” Koenig said after winning one of the 2012 XTERRA Florida Series races. “I was wrong. The single track meandered through the forest and the off-trail terrain was often very technical, following faint game trails through brush, mud, and up and down steep, short, and often abrupt hills. I often had to slow down substantially to look for the next flag marker in the off-trail sections. It was hard to get a rhythm going in the technical part of the course.”
Each event will offer a long course for experienced runners and a short course for less-experienced runners. The short courses range from 5 to 10 kilometers, while the long courses range from 15 to 21 kilometers.
One of the highlights of each race is the post-race. All runners are treated to a hot breakfast and entertainment in a party-like atmosphere for the post-race awards.
At the conclusion of the season, the top age-group runners from the Florida Series will earn free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, which is held every September in Utah.
To register for a race in the Florida Series or to learn more about it, please visit www.tamparaces.com.