Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hooters, 10 Years

More than a decade ago, Mike Pemberton dreamed of putting on a first rate half marathon in Fort Myers.  He wanted a race to rival the crown jewel of Southwest Florida road racing, the Naples Daily News Half Marathon, run every year in January.  Putting on a great road race in Fort Myers comes with a whole slew of problems, especially the longer races.

Mike zeroed in on a race that would carry runners from the Hooters restaurant on U.S. 41 to the Hooters on Fort Myers Beach.  Hooters was on board, but unfortunately, the Florida Department of Transportation didn't like the idea of tying up a main travel corridor like U.S. 41 or San Carlos Boulevard for a road race.  That resulted in the design of a course that put runners near the Hooters on U.S. 41 and looping them around Fort Myers before depositing runners back at the Hooters on 41.

The course serves up a first class tour of the fancy neighborhoods that line McGregor Boulevard before sending you up, over and back on the Edison Bridge shortly after hitting the midpoint of the race. Then comes a challenging stretch over the last three miles that serves up a flat, straight shot, south to the Edison Mall and a hop, skip and a jump back to the Hooters.  There you will find a bevy of Hooters gals serving up free beer and wings.

This year marks the tenth year for Hooters to Hooters.  It has staked out a unique place in Southwest Florida's racing landscape.  Unlike the two other high marks of the racing scene in the Naples and Fort Myers area, the NDN Half Marathon and the Edison Festival of Lights 5K, Hooters doesn't offer any prize money.  It hearkens back to the days when runners raced for the pleasure of competition, a chance at a door prize and a post-race brew with friends.

It takes a lot of hard work, hundreds of volunteer hours and dozens upon dozensof volunteers to pull off this race. The best part is every dollar goes to a couple of great Southwest Florida charities.  Ten years and going strong, Hooters Half Maraton.

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