While most places in the U.S. are buckling down and moving indoors for the winter, the weather in Florida stays pretty mild. This means that in Tampa, it’s prime walking, hiking, and best of all, running season. With the extreme heat and humidity of summer whisked away, Florida winters provide great conditions for lovers of the great outdoors.

If you’ve spent time hitting the pavement and are now looking for a competition where you can show off your running skills or a race to motivate you to train even harder and more consistently, we have several local Tampa-area runs for you. Check out the following 5K winter races, see which one seems like your speed (no pun intended), and sign up:

Run Tampa Tinsel Run

This fun holiday-themed 5K run takes place on Saturday, Dec. 10, right in Tampa. The Run Tampa Tinsel Run is perfect for beginners, as new runners have different choices about how to compete.

Many decide to take part in the 5K run, which starts at 8 a.m., is chip timed, and rewards the winners with finisher medals plus unique stuffed gnomes for the top three overall in the male and female categories. Awards are also handed out by age group, spanning every 5 years from 15 to 80 plus.

Newer runners, or those who haven’t trained in a while, may want to simply take part in the 1-mile Fun Run to see their own abilities. The race isn’t timed and isn’t chipped, which takes a lot of the pressure off competitors. Although there are finisher medals, there are no other awards given out. The Fun Run starts at 8:40 a.m., a little while after the 5K runners have set off.

The Run Tampa Tinsel Run starts from Al Lopez Park, located at 4810 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa, unless you plan to take part in the 5K virtual race, which allows you to run wherever you want. The top prizes include running shoes and large stuffed gnome trophies.

Entry fees are $30 for the Virtual 5K, $40 for the main 5K if signing up before Dec. 5, and $20 for the Fun Run. Competitors are encouraged to wear holiday-themed running attire to celebrate the festive season.

St. Petersburg Distance Classic

This annual race takes place next year on Feb. 12, with competitors running along the coast around Tampa Bay. Runners love the St. Petersburg Distance Classic because of all the options it offers for runners of all levels of experience and endurance.

You can sign up for the 5K race, which starts at 7 a.m. in North Shore Park in downtown St. Petersburg. If you’re feeling up for a bigger challenge, the 10K race, halfathon, and marathon all start from the same place a little earlier at 6:30 a.m. Don’t know if you’re up for a run? Would you like to try walking the distance instead to get a feel for it? Not a problem, as the walkers’ early start is at 6 a.m.

All runners and walkers start heading out in the same direction toward Snell Isle to the north. The difference is that the 5K runners turn around after the first two miles to head back to the start/finish line, while the rest of the groups continue onward.

The St. Petersburg races are officially certified by USA Track & Field, meaning the 5K course has been measured out as exactly that length. Overall, this race is a great start for beginners to the world of racing, as it takes you through some beautiful residential neighborhoods of the area, and you should be done with the entire race before the sun rises high enough to make the heat and brightness a challenge.

If you finish the 5K feeling like you’re on top of the world, try the 10K next year, and perhaps in a few years you can work your way up to your first marathon.

Santa Dash 5K Run

Take part in the first ever Santa Dash 5K Run event, which is sure to be one of the greatest sporty holiday events of the year. Unlike many other races with early morning starts, the Santa Dash starts at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, in order to allow participants to go straight to an after party in Epperson Lagoon when they’re done.

The 5K is an exact 3.1-mile run that starts in Epperson Lagoon Water Park in Wesley Chapel and finishes in the same place, and it puts much more emphasis on having fun and enjoying holiday entertainment rather than competing. Alongside the course, you’ll find plenty of holiday character photo opportunities and other fun holiday-themed entertainment to lighten your spirits.

The registration prices are $40 if you sign up before Nov. 30 and $50 if you sign up between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10.

Don’t worry about missing the after-party even if you’re one of the slowest runners in the race. The festivities start at 5:30 p.m. and go on until 11 p.m. The party is a kid-friendly event, so you can invite your whole family to come celebrate with you at the end of the race.

Your children can look forward to bounce houses, face painting, and a meet and greet with Santa Claus himself for the kids. Adults will enjoy a big part of the evening as well, which features an interactive DJ, plenty of local food trucks, and drink specials to keep you dancing all night long.

A lot of people want to train to run marathons, but a 5K is a great place to start if a full-on marathon seems intimidating at first. This winter season, you can sign up for one of the many fun-themed 5K winter runs in the Tampa area to get a taste of what a race would be like while enjoying some holiday cheer along the way. If you have a favorite race we missed, contact us at the biostation to let us know, and we may include your suggestion in a future post.

Image Credit: IMG_8845 by Gordon Tarpley is licensed with CC BY 2.0