The Gulf Coast Runners (GCR) recently presented the annual Marco Island 5 Mile Hill Run. In its 39th year, it is historically the longest race in the 41-year lifetime of the GCR. Climbing through the Inlet Drive-Indian Hill area of Marco Island, it is known as the toughest course in Southwest Florida.
For avid runners, it was an ideal way to celebrate the holiday season. Many participants donned festive running apparel to relay the spirit of joy to fellow runners and spectators. It was a family affair for many with several baby strollers ascending the hills, pushed by their running moms and dads. Keeping with tradition, Marco Island’s Poling family dashed along the route bringing good tidings of fitness and health.
This year’s race course was slightly different from previous years. The start and finish lines were at the Wesley United Methodist Church on BarfieldDrive. The course featured one less hill than in the past, but the route was exactly five miles and was as challenging as ever.
The overall winner of the race was 23-year-old Ryan Stafford of Fort Myers with a time of 27:18.65. He was followed by 18-year-old Griffin Mackey of Naples, coming in at 27:35.13. Cody Demalquez, 17 years old, crossed the finish line at 30:04.96.
The overall top three females were Marco Island’s 36-year-old Alexis Lamb at 34:05.67, Alexandra Gardino (age 29) of Naples at 35:28.77 and 17-year-old Maura “Rosie” Poling of Marco Island at 35:45.96. Rosie Poling was a winner in many ways that day. Upon receiving her award, it was announced that she has just been accepted to Harvard!
For the past 30 years, Lely High School coach and teacher, Mark McGarity, has served as race director. With gratitude for McGarity’s commitment and service, GCRPresident Mitch Norgart said, “Mark is a remarkable man. He is a dedicated coach and teacher.” A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Gulf Coast Runners races always benefit children or other charities. This year’s beneficiary of the 5 Mile Hill Run was the Lely Road Runners Club.
The Gulf Coast Runners wish to thank the Wesley United Methodist Church and the race’s many sponsors including the Poling Medical Center, Independent Accounting Office, Premier Endoscopy Center, Foxboro Sports Tavern, Career Flight Training & Aircraft Rental, Insurance Solutions of Southwest Florida, Marco Island Brewery, Mr. Squeegy Window Cleaning Company, Kretch’s Restaurant, Advantage Worx, Lely XC Staff, Summer Day Market & Café, Betty Nemeth Empowering Women – Rodan & Fields, Christian’s Auto Repair, Marco Island Interiors, Hoot’s, John’s Philly Grille, Red Rooster, Something Olde Something New and the Fetzer family. Without their generosity, the event would not have been possible.
For complete race results, please visit www.gcrunner.org.