One of Tampa’s oldest and most unique 15K (9.3 mile) races, the 2017 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic, is one of the few to feature both an adult race and a kids race. South Tampa Magazine spoke with the matriarch of a family running both, Corbett Preparatory School of IDS teacher Julie Omodio-Griess, Ph.D.
“I’m really only competitive with myself — I first did the 5K in 1998 and then progressed to the 15K and then from there progressed up to a half-marathon,” Omodio-Griess said. “My husband, Chuck, usually does the 5K, so we brought our girls Riley (12) and Maya (9). They wanted to do it, but we wanted to wait until they were big enough.”
Stretching and controlled breathing can either make or break long-distance running, especially if you’re inexperienced.
“Preventing injury is really just teaching them how to run with form because kids tend to be tippy-toe runners,” Omodio-Griess said. “Teach them to run heel-toe and also practice breathing slow and steadily, not heavily, so you don’t end up with a cramp.”
A doctor of curriculum and instruction in special education, Omodio-Greiss believes kids will try anything that doesn’t feel like work, even if it means running in tutus.
“Make it just part of your life, but make it fun: listen to music, set challenges, or even use a Fitbit as an incentive to get more steps in,” she said. “We make it fun by running in tutus and being silly about it and helping them realize that it’s all about having fun, it’s not about winning, and just having that mindset of ‘let’s just go have fun as a family.’”
Balancing Health & Fun
Maintaining a balanced running schedule is important to Omodio-Greiss, who doesn’t want her daughters’ new pastime veering into obsession.
“I run because it helps my sanity, but I don’t necessarily do it so that I can be a size 2,” she said. “I want to keep in shape but I don’t look at my weight that way and I try to make sure I never talk about that with my girls. I never, ever emphasize that weight is the reason I run and I want them to keep that mindset that it’s about health, not body shape.”
Start Short and Slow
Though her daughters are involved in outside sports, the family still jogs short distances with them to build up their endurance for longer races.
“We did our third Wiregrass Wobble Turkey Trot this year,” Omodio-Griess said. “It’s a simple one-mile run, but sometimes it’s challenging—my younger one takes off like a jackrabbit, and then all of a sudden she has a cramp. Riley said she actually likes the 5K better because she doesn’t feel like she has to sprint the whole time—you can go at your own pace. The mile she feels she has to run all out, so I think she’s kind of getting the bug for longer distances.”
“I’ve signed up for more races this year than I have in the past five years,” Omodio-Greiss said. “It’s fun that they want to do this with us, and that makes it more enjoyable.”