“People think Florida is all flat, but there are a lot of hills here,” said Peter Kilcullen, who is already registered for the Wildhorse Trail Run. “It’s not necessarily the big mountain uphills and long downs, but you go up and down really fast. There are a lot of rolling hills, so it’s constantly changing. Between that and the heat you get over here, it can be tough.”
The inaugural XTERRA Florida Series will feature three races during the 2010-11 season. Following the first race in November, there will be one race in March and another in May. All three races will be in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area of the Sunshine State.
“There are a lot of trails here, and the number of runners has been growing over the years,” said Florida Series director Jim Hartnett. “Adding XTERRA to the mix will create some new challenges for the runners, and make the runs even more exciting.”
More than 300 runners are expected to participate in the first Wildhorse Trail Run, including some of the state’s elite competitors.
“There are some really fast runners,” Kilcullen said. “I’m usually in the middle or back of the pack, so I don’t see them, but when I look at the times, I can see how fast they really are.”
Kilcullen, 42, has been competing in trail runs in Florida for the past six years. He said there are several aspects – besides the heat and humidity – that make the Florida trails unique, including palm trees and patches of “sugar sand.”
“It’s not Colorado, where you’re above 7,000 feet,” he said. “It’s Florida, where you have to deal with the heat and the sand. There’s usually a section with some heavy duty sugar sand. It’s beautiful white sand, but it’s brutal to run in.”
Each race in the Florida Series will feature at least two distances for runners to choose from. The Wildhorse Trail Run will have four options: half-marathon (13.1 miles), 10 miles, 6.2 miles, or 4 miles. “This being our first race on this trail, we wanted to make sure there’s a course for everyone,” Hartnett said.
The reward – besides the thrill of completing the course – will come at the post-race awards ceremony. A hot pancake breakfast will be served to all participating runners.
Cumulative points will be tabulated throughout the season, and the top runner in each age-group at the end of the season will be crowned a Florida Series champion. Each age-group champion will receive free entry to the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship.