17:54 PM

TPA 5K is a runaway success

(April 29, 2015) - For the third straight year, the Tampa International Airport 5K Runway Fun Run was a big success, selling out all 1,500 registrations before the event and raising over $54,000 for United Way Suncoast. 

It was a clear, sunny, Saturday morning when the runners made their way to the starting line. lopano cheers on winner nathan diehl

Nathan Diehl, 27, was the first place overall finisher, completing the race in 17:54.6.

Diehl, who along with his girlfriend has participated in three races so far this year, said that he enjoyed his first runway run and plans on returning next year.

“It was awesome,” said Diehl.  “The open space allowed for a pretty strong headwind in the beginning, and that made it challenging, plus it was cool to be right there where the planes land.”

Diehl said that in addition to the unique venue, he also appreciated knowing that he was helping the community.  He volunteers for Hands on Suncoast, the community service platform for United Way Suncoast.

“It was a great event, you go out and have a good time and you know that you’re supporting a great cause,” said Diehl.

After Diehl, the top two male runners were: Francisco Juan, 16 of Land O Lakes and Neil Clements, 41, of Zephyrhills.

The top three female runners were: Maria Lopez, 31, of Tampa who finished the race in 20:24.3, followed by Jaena Smith, 21, of Port Orange and Kalea Lehman, 30, of Tampa.

Lopez, who runs over a dozen races of varying lengths each year, said that she has never participated in the runway run before but joined in this year at the suggestion of some friends. 

“It was exciting. I’ve come in second and third before, but this is my first win,” said Lopez.  “The awards are very unique.”

Airplane-shaped trophies were presented to the top three male and female finishers, the topwheelchair race participant and top three winners for both boys and girls in the youth divisions.  Certificates were presented to the top and male and female runners in 11 age categories.

For many, however, it was all about the experience instead of the finish line. Participating in the runway run simply for the unique view of the airport. 

Clifford Holensworth, a USO volunteer at TPA, walked the 5K and admitted it was more about the novelty of being on the runway for him.  Holensworth brought his camera along and took photos during his rare opportunity to be on the airfield.

“It was an incredible experience to be right there where the planes land,” said Holensworth.  “I always thought it would be cool to be able to lay down right on the center line in the middle of the runway.”  And he did.

At the conclusion of the race, the winning raffle tickets were drawn for the six pairs of airline tickets provided by event sponsors Edelweiss, Copa, Southwest, Silver, Spirit and Delta.   Campaign volunteers sold the raffle tickets in the weeks leading up to the race at the airport and around town at popular running club events.  The raffle tickets generated an additional 10 thousand dollars for the United Way Suncoast donation campaign.

Hundreds of employees and volunteers donated their time and energy for the event to supervise the race activities while maintaining the safety and security of the airport.    Volunteers also staffed the exhibit area, registration table and sold raffle tickets.  Many of the enthusiastic volunteers worked out on the racecourse providing water for the runners and acting as motivational cheerleaders until the last runners completed the course.

All race results are posted on CoolRunning.com.

Event photos are posted to Facebook.com/FlyTPAevents