Tampa, Fl. — Finishing under a warm butterscotch sun three-time U.S. Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Jen Rhines captured top honors today at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon. Dathan and Jen both broke year-old course records in the process, Ritz’s 1:03:17 erasing Ryan Vail’s 1:04:09 from 2014, while Rhines’ 1:12:35 white-outed Lindsey Scherf’s 1:13:08 from the books. They each won $8000 for their victories, as well. But how they won their titles, ah, that is where their stories diverge.
The men lit out into the pre-dawn darkness at a modest pace under calm but humid 57 degree temps. A pack of seven soon formed as the course led over the bridge onto Davis Island for the first five miles. Four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, just back from a six week training stint in Ethiopia, established the pace with Americans Ritz, Fernando Cabada, Ian Burrell, Brett Gotcher, Carlos Trujillo and 22 year-old Tampa resident Brian Atkinson all in easy contact. Mile two passed in a desultory 10:06, perfect from the Ritzenhein standpoint.
“The slower the better as far as I’m concerned,” Ritz told me during a chat on Friday. “I haven’t rested for this at all, and would rather not have to press early.”
Ritz is gearing up for his first run at the Boston Marathon on April 20, and only decided to run Gasparilla on Monday as record cold temperatures descended on his upper Midwest home in Rockford, Michigan.
“It had been a pretty good winter till the first of the year,” Ritz laughed. “But I’ve only had one long run outside since. You can tough it out, or I could have stayed indoors at Grand Valley State (where Ritz volunteer coaches), but I needed a longer rhythm run, and that wasn’t possible. So I decided to come down.” (more…)