Two decades ago on Oct. 26, 2002, The Great West Chase kicked off for the very first time!
This month on Saturday, Oct. 23 the race celebrates a major milestone when hundreds of runners lace up and take off down Linebaugh Avenue, marking the race’s 20th Anniversary.
In 2002, the year of the inaugural race, West Park Village was still under construction.
With so few participants that first year, the original Westchase Starbucks, now relocated, even donated a half pound of coffee to put in each runner’s race bag. Back in 2002, race organizers on WOW staff didn’t know whether the event would catch on or even grow.
But catch on it did. Subsequent years saw the significant expansion of the post-race party and the addition of a 10K option.
In recent years, more than 1,000 runners have crossed the finish lines of the event’s three races: a 5K, a 10K and the Kids Fun Run. (The 10K starts at 7 a.m., the 5K starts at 8 a.m. and the Kids Fun Run at 9 a.m.) Since 2002 the event has allowed WOW to make $310,500 in charitable donations with most going to schools serving a high number of underprivileged children.
Citrus Park Elementary, a nearby elementary school where 63 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged, will be the recipient of this year’s race proceeds. Citrus Park Elementary also hosts one of the most widely respected educational programs for students with special needs.
As part of the race, WOW is conducting a book drive for the schools’ kids.
“We hope all families in the Westchase and Northwest areas will take a few moments to go through their family bookshelves to identify gently used books they are willing to now give to kids with no books at all,” said WOW Business Manager Leslie Blaze, the race chair.
Donations of new or gently used books can be dropped off at the Westchase Rec Center, located at 9791 Westchase Dr. in The Bridges, during its hours of operation (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.) WOW hopes all race participants will bring at least one elementary level book to packet pickup at the Westchase Rec. Center on Thursday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m-1 p.m. and 3-7 p.m.
Prospective race participants can visit www.TheGreatWestChase.com for detailed race information and registration. A registration form is located in this edition’s inserts.
Multiple volunteers are needed to help make the event a success, from preparing race bags to helping with early morning registration on race day. “This event takes the whole community from start to finish and any group or organization wanting to be a part of it is welcome,” said Blaze.
Interested volunteers can email firstname.lastname@example.org. We particularly need help stuffing race bags Oct. 20 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Westchase Rec. Center.
Each runner will receive a fun T-shirt with race mascot “Chase” and a commemorative 20th anniversary finisher medal. After running, they’ll join a great post-race party featuring PDQ, Catch Twenty-Three, Carrabba’s, Irish 31 and Bahama Bucks and a beer truck from Pepin, staffed by generous volunteers from the Westchase Freebooters Krewe. Those who remain for the awards ceremony (recognizing the top three finishers, male and female, in five-year age groups) will participate in the race’s popular raffle. The Great West Chase also recognizes runners completing their first 5K or 10K.
Beginning in West Park Village at the base of Montague Street, the race proceeds west on Linebaugh Avenue (and, in the case of the 10K, north on Countryway Boulevard) before returning and finishing near its start. The kids’ run stays on the internal Montague Street loop in West Park Village.
If you would like to volunteer, please contact Leslie Blaze at email@example.com for more information.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Cover Photos by James Broome Photography