Running for a Cause: St Pete Beach Classic 

Tampa Bay Rays’ mascot “Raymond” runs along with the kids’ race at a past St. Pete Beach Classic. This year’s event features two kids’ races in addition to the 10k, 5k, a Beach Fun Run and half-marathon. Photo courtesy of Al Johnson

An estimated 1200 runners are gearing up for the 2018 St. Pete Beach Classic scheduled for January 12, 13 and 14. What started off as one day of races in 2004 has grown into a multi-day event for all ages and experiences, including children.

That vibe of inclusiveness isn’t limited to range of participants, however. St. Pete Beach Classic donates proceeds from the race fees to multiple charities. The beneficiaries for this year are yet to be chosen.

“It all depends on how much money we have leftover,” said Al Johnson, race coordinator and founder. The classic was registered as a 501(c) nonprofit in 2013 and relies on a board of directors to direct donations to charitable organizations after costs (medals, food, water bottles, etc.) have been paid out. The proceeds are typically donated to local charities, with a focus on medical-related nonprofits.

In the past, the race’s donations have gone to causes such as the St. Pete Free Clinic, the pool fund for St. Pete Beach’s city pool maintenance, Support Our Troops, the American Cancer Society and more. The American Cancer Society, the only national organization the race donates to, is near and dear to the history of the race.

Al Johnson’s and his wife Wendy started the race in 2004, but had to cancel the race in 2010 due to Wendy’s cancer.

“People that have never even run a step in their life were coming up to me in Publix, devastated I cancelled the race,” said Johnson. “That’s when I realized this was their race, not mine.”

The race returned in 2011, and the 2012 edition was a tribute to Wendy’s life, bearing the name the Wendy Johnson Memorial Race.

In the spirit of community, however, Johnson stresses the race is for everyone.

“We get fast people and we get slow people. We just want them to come out and see we live in paradise,” said Johnson. According to Johnson’s statistics, 82% of race participants come from St. Pete Beach zip codes. “This a community that just happens to have a race with it.”

The St. Pete Beach Classic will take place at the Sirata Beach Resort on January 12 through the 14. The weekend will kick off Friday with a runner’s expo with items like healthy eats, running apparel, sunglasses, real estate agents aiming to target out-of-state runners, and even a bio-friendly sunscreen vendor. Following the expo are multiple races, including a 10k, 5k, a Beach Fun Run, half-marathon, and two kids’ races. A beach bonfire, concert and award ceremony will complete the weekend’s events.

Not a runner? No problem. The St. Pete Beach Classic relies heavily on volunteers to coordinate and run the races each year. Johnson estimates over 500 volunteers help out each year, doing everything from registration to handing out water to runners on the courses.

“You can even walk right into the expo day of the race and we’ll take you as a volunteer,” he said. Volunteers can also register and sign up for shifts on the race’s website.

For more information or to register, participants can visit


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