More than a race, Run Fest is a “passion project” • St Pete Catalyst
St. Pete Run Fest is more than a group of people wearing bibs and running; it is a community inspired multi-event festival that also includes ongoing events.
Run Fest is also a family affair, founded by brothers Keith and Ryan Jordan and their respective wives, Claire and Paula. Ryan Jordan said St. Petersburg had “pretty good sized racing events here that left town,” creating a vacuum in the market. When the city issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to fill the void five years ago, the Jordans jumped at the chance. They won the RFP and are now St. Pete’s official racing event.
“The point of all of this is to create something that the community really comes together around,” Jordan said. “It’s definitely about running and wellness, but it’s also a celebration of St. Peter’s.”
With last year’s event having been canceled due to the pandemic, this year will mark the fourth time that Run Fest brings its unique blend of entertainment, philanthropy, health initiatives and running to the water’s edge. from downtown St. Pete. Scheduled for Nov. 12-14, Jordan expects more than 10,000 people to attend, many from outside the region. He said more than 20% of those registered this year were from 100 miles or more, giving the city another chance to show foreigners what makes it special.
“We started this thing five years ago to build something special, and the good news is it’s growing every year,” Jordan said. “And that should be the biggest yet.”
Jordan said it was a big responsibility to organize a destination city half marathon, mentioning how the Boston Marathon and even the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa have become “big parts of the fabric of the community.” . About 30,000 people attended the event across the bay, and Jordan thinks St. Pete is “certainly worthy and has a beautiful place to have something that would rival it.”
Run Fest has a close partnership with the city and is a big part of the Healthy St. Pete initiative. Organizers travel the community to make people comfortable with fitness, wellness and health. Their work also extends to the children of the community. Jordan said there is a shortage of materials to keep the kids active, so they are bringing “play packs” to all elementary schools in St. Pete. Play packs include things like jump ropes, kickballs, chalk, and anything else that can keep kids active in the digital age.
“Humana, Healthy St. Pete, and Run Fest are sponsoring and distributing them, so it’s really kind of a year-round commitment,” Jordan said. “It’s really about trying to do good things and celebrating what makes St. Pete great.”
Raising the community is the main goal of Run Fest, and Jordan says he also works closely with the St. Pete Free Clinic to provide meals to the hungry. With its Miles for Meals program, Run Fest donates to the clinic free of charge for every kilometer traveled. Jordan said the goal this year is to raise enough money for 5,000 meals, a feat he said would be “badass.” There is also an event to raise funds for pediatric cancer from November 12-14, with all proceeds going to the Gold Together Cancer Research Foundation.
“There’s a bunch of causes in this (Run Fest) thing,” Jordan said. “It’s inspiring people to go out and be comfortable while being uncomfortable and doing good. “
Although Run Fest is only five years old, one of which was won by Covid, it is already receiving national recognition. BibRave, which ranks races in all categories, recently named the St. Pete Run Fest Half Marathon its fifth best half marathon in the past decade. Jordan said most of this recognition is due to the city hosting the race.
“The star of the show is St. Pete,” Jordan said. “We’re just doing our best to highlight what we think makes St. Pete great.”
Jordan said he has lived in St. Pete for 20 years, but is still unprepared for the level of support the surrounding business community has given Run Fest. Jordan said he approached businesses in the city he liked and frequented already and asked if they wanted to get involved in the event. “The answers have been a resounding yes,” he said.
Jordan mentions 3 Daughters Brewing, Green Bench Brewing, Rollin Oats, Kahwa Coffee, Mahaffey Theater, Dali Museum, Treehouse Gallery, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Tampa Bay Rays as all contributing to the continued success of Run Fest.
“We quickly understood why the city is so unique and special,” Jordan said. “That’s our goal – to make this a long-term recurring event that the city and community support, support and are proud of. “
“This is an exciting project, and I am moved just to think about it.”
For more information on Run Fest, visit their website here.