Senior Alexandra Koutsogiannopoulos has been a serious long-distance runner for about six years. However, she had never participated in an actual meet until Saturday. Her friends, who are also runners, encouraged her to participate in Shapes’ Total Fitness Iron Girl Women’s 5K and 10K Run/Walk on the USF campus.
Koutsogiannopoulos and more than 750 other women gathered bright and early at 8 a.m. last Saturday. The youngest participant was 5 years old and the oldest was 77, though most were around 44 years old. Daughters, mothers and grandmothers, some even pushing sport utility strollers for their children to comfortably ride in, all participated in a race that began at the USF Soccer Stadium on Alumni Drive to display their dedication to healthy living.
“We did our first event here in Tampa last year, and this is our second year with the event. We have had four this year, and next year we will have eight,” said Judy Molnar, vice president of Tampa’s Iron Girl branch.
Koutsogiannopoulos took this opportunity for her first race not only because it was convenient, but also because she liked what Iron Girl stands for.
“I wanted to run for a good cause, like cancer prevention,” Koutsogiannopoulos said. Iron Girl is an organization that incorporates fitness for women with charitable funding for skin cancer research. Profits from the races go to the Iron Girl Skin Cancer Awareness Campaign, which supports with the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.
Participants in the event gave only encouragement to their fellow runners. There was no competitive edge because most of the runners were only challenging and pushing themselves. “I’m not really doing this to win,” USF alumna Haley DiCieco said. “I just love to run. It’s a great way to stay in shape, to build confidence and get your health back on track. Also, this is for a good cause.”
The winners of the two races were Maria Ghizzoni (5K) and Kimberly Bruce-Bumbul (10K). Bruce-Bumbul finished despite running with a sport utility stroller.
Mid-way through the race, a “bandit” joined one of the races. A “bandit” is someone who randomly joins a race without entering first. This bandit was easy to spot as the only male running in the all-woman race, and the police escorted him off the course.
After the run, refreshments were given to those in need, as well as free massages. All participants received Iron Girl performance running shirts and discounts at the American Running Company. Other prizes for participants who placed were Iron Girl gear, watches, running shoes, sunglasses and even a sport utility stroller.
Whether they placed in the race, most of the women left with a sense of pride.
“I think the biggest thing for us is allowing women to lead a healthy, active lifestyle,” Molnar said. “We present women with an opportunity to achieve and excel in their own personal goals.”