As one seasonal tourism booster in Key West comes to a close, a group of business people and running enthusiasts in Key Largo hope to bring another set of heads in beds to the Upper Keys.

The Jewfish Creek Bridge Run is the brainchild of Candy Basilius, a multi-generational Conch who wanted to find a way to turn her passion for running into something good for the community.

“Jen Gibson is my running partner, and every morning when we ran, I told her I’d really like to plan a race to benefit the community,” Basilius explained. “I took my plan to the church, where Jen and I are both members, and they were more than happy to sponsor the event.”

As of mid-week, well over 500 runners had registered through, and co-organizer Jerry Gaddis said the field currently includes participants from 23 different states as well as runners from Germany and England.

Organizers are looking to grow the number of runners in the coming years to reach the cap for the race at approximately 1,500 runners. That limit is determined by public safety regulations and bridge capacity.

Registration for the popular 7 Mile Bridge Run often fills up within two days of the application opening date. Gaddis said if organizers of the Key Largo race grow the event to include as many runners as the reputed race farther down the Keys, they could calculate at least 3,000 additional people in one weekend to spend money in the Key Largo business community.

“You have to figure that if every runner brings one other person with them, and the race starts at sunrise, they’ll have to get a hotel room for at least one night,” Gaddis deduced. “That’s quite an influx of people and business in a historically slower time of year.”

In addition to the business boost, November’s moderate temperatures offer the perfect setting for a half marathon.

But this one race, with the support of churches, local businesses and countywide organizations, has already grown, in its inaugural year, into a weekend-long event.

Florida Keys AHEC is presenting a health expo at the Key Largo Holiday Inn on Friday, Nov. 13 from noon to 6 pm. The expo is available not only for runners but free to the community.

Services available at the expo will include, but are not limited to: osteo screenings, skin cancer screenings, a good health clinic, spiometry – which tests lung capacity – and representatives from the health department and the healthy start coalition. AHEC is also working to have the Blood Mobile on hand as well as plenty of flu shots available.

Doc’s Diner, located directly across from the Holiday Inn, will be hosting a Pasta Party for runners to load up on carbs the evening before the race. Tickets for the Pasta Party will be available for purchase at the expo for $8 for participants and $10 for non-participants. Children’s tickets will be available for $6. Dinner at the Pasta Party will include spaghetti with marina sauce, meatballs, salad, garlic bread and iced tea.

Limited registration and race packet pick up will be available until 9 pm.

Bus service will begin before the sun rises on Saturday morning at 4:30. The Half Marathon will begin at 6:35, sunrise for race day is 6:38 and the 5K run/walk starts promptly at 6:40 am.

After out of town guests have departed for the weekend and cleanup from the festivities is completed, all proceeds from the race will benefit four local organizations, which include Jacobs Aquatic Center, the Upper Keys YMCA, Autism Society of the Keys (ASK) and Key Largo Baptist Church. Basilius said several event coordinators nominated these groups to benefit from the race, and next year, another set of local non-profits will be the beneficiaries of the race.

“This is going to be a great, family-oriented event,” Basilius said proudly, adding that since planning began for the race, she’s seen the number of runners each morning on the bike path in Key Largo nearly double. “I’m so excited to see everybody out getting fit and training for the race!”

Entry Requirements:
• Online registration will close on November 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm.
• You must be able to complete the half marathon in 4 hours. Anyone left on the course after such time will be picked up. Participants will still receive a finisher’s medal.
• You must be at least 13 years or older to participate in event.
• You must be in good health and physically prepared to participate.
• Race numbers are required to participate.
• There will be no registration or packet pick up on race day.  You must pick race packet, including race bib, during the Health and Fitness Expo Friday evening. If the race has not reached capacity, registration will be available at expo. There will be no race day registration.
• A nominal fee in addition to registration fee will be charged by for online registration. 
• Course certified by USA Track and Field means that any record set on this course will be accepted as a national record. It also allows you to know with confidence that the distance and your time are accurate and comparable to any other certified course.

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