MOUNT DORA — Newly seated City Council member Crissy Stile has a good read on the value of the Mount Dora Half Marathon.“I think anything that draws more people downtown is great,” said the owner of downtown’s Barrel of Books and Games, who will enjoy the race from the sidelines.
“It’s something different, too, than all the other festivals that we have.”Taking place annually at Christmastime, the running event has a festive family-friendly atmosphere with touches such as stilt walkers, gingerbread and the Clauses.New this year, the seventh annual event will be held over two days, Dec. 15-16, with the 5K race taking place on Saturday and the longer race on Sunday.“So people can do both races now,” organizer Vickie Blate said.The 5K course will bring the event to another part of the city.
“We’re going to be more inclusive with the east part of Mount Dora,” Blate said.The 5K will start at Lincoln Park and end in front of the pickleball courts near City Hall.More than 1,300 runners took to the roads around downtown Mount Dora for the Mount Dora Half Marathon and 5K in 2013. (File photo)The half marathon will continue to start and finish at Elizabeth Evans Park.
Runners who take part in both events will receive a special medal, Blate said. In previous years the race has featured appearances by legendary long-distance runners Bill Rodgers, who’s attended five times, and Frank Shorter, twice. Rodgers is known for winning the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon four times between 1975 and 1980. He twice broke the American record at Boston.Shorter made history during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, when he became the first American in 64 years to win the marathon.
In another change, neither will be on hand this time. Blate, who owns On-the-Run Fitness in Mount Dora, said she’s looking forward to putting on an extravaganza to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 2021. One constant will be the return of Brazilian Fredison Costa, who has won the past four Mount Dora half marathons. Costa — who set the course record of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 31 seconds in 2015 — is well-known in Central Florida. His streak of four consecutive Walt Disney World Marathon titles came to an end in January.
The top three overall male and female half marathon winners, as well as the top three male and female age group victors, will receive awards. As of Dec. 7, registration for one or both of the races stood at 1,378. Blate said final numbers might fall short of the 2,000 or so last year.
Instead of trying to continually increase the number of runners, she wants to keep it manageable for the venue — downtown streets.“Our streets are small …1,000 people on our streets are crowded,” she said. “You’re never alone, trust me.”
The scenic half-marathon course takes runners through city streets, around Lake Gertrude and along the shore of Lake Dora on Lakeshore Drive. “I think it’s just a charming place to have a race,” Blate said. “It’s shady, quaint town.”Launched in 2012, the Mount Dora Half Marathon has made its name in the “Festival City,” home to the Mount Dora Arts Festival and Mount Dora Craft Festival, among other happenings that bring visitors downtown. “It is on the list of recurring events,” Blate said. “We’re established.”