TAMPA — The female and male winners of Saturday’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K couldn’t be more different — or cool.
Katherine O’Sullivan-Sams, a 36-year-old professional golfer and mother of two, only started running seven years ago after the birth of her first child. O’Sullivan-Sams – who grew up in Scotland and now lives in Venice, Florida – finished in 17 minutes and 57 seconds.
Dylan Nolan, a 16-year-old junior from Clearwater Central Catholic who lives in Oldsmar, has been racing for seven years and has never played golf. Nolan finished in 16:24.
Afterwards, the winners sat next to each other and talked about the heat (mid-80s), their training schedules and how running for both of them is “like a meditation” .
O’Sullivan said she gets much of her workout routine from the internet and almost always trains on her own. Nolan also trains a lot on his own, but added that his teammates “definitely help me up on tough days.”
On Saturday, O’Sullivan-Sams and Nolan took off in a leading pack with Nolan firing fast forward, where he remained unchallenged by any competitors the rest of the way. Nolan’s only challenge, in fact, was in the last mile where he said he had to battle the heat.
“I just crossed the (Platt Street bridge shortly after the start) and found my rhythm and tried to maintain it as best I could,” said Nolan, who clocked a personal best 16 :06 in the 5K high school country races. and one under 10 minutes 3200 meters.
O’Sullivan-Sams, meanwhile, had 31-year-old Kelsey Mackey of St. Petersburg hot on her heels the entire race, a fact pointed out by many of Mackey’s well-wishers along the way.
“I could feel (Mackey) right behind and the cheers for her clearly showed she was close,” O’Sullivan-Sams said. “But I’m just going at my own pace because that’s all I can do.”
In the end, it was more than enough as O’Sullivan-Sams crossed in eight seconds ahead of Mackey.
Future plans for O’Sullivan-Sams include teaching more golf lessons and running about 25-40 miles a week, while playing maybe a round or two here and there (his score the low is 7 under par 65).
“I just run for fun, I try to run longer and use that to get away to where no one is talking to me and get into my own mental space,” said O’Sullivan-Sams, who added that the Gasparilla 5K was his toughest racing challenge after winning several small races around Venice.
“When you’re running, you can get to a point where you don’t think about your body anymore and you go into a mental space. Running for me is great mental exercise. …I think running definitely helps improve my golf game.
Nolan says he plans to train harder and harder with his eyes on next high school track season and eventually have the state track meet, hopefully in the 1,600 or 3,200 yards.
Saturday’s Gasparilla 5K was O’Sullivan-Sams’ first and Nolan’s fifth. Don’t be surprised to see them here again in the future.
“It’s always great to run this race,” said Nolan. “I look forward to this.”