Feb. 10, 2005 With only a bit more than two weeks to go until the ninth annual 8 Tuff Miles race on St. John, runners are getting in shape for the event. The race begins at 7:15 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 26.
Last year 515 people crossed the finish line. This year, organizer Peter Alter expects more than 700 to compete.
"We did promoting over the summer. I expect 100 more people from the states than last year," Alter said
The race runs from behind the V.I. National Park Visitor's Center in Cruz Bay, up the Boulon Center Road and along Centerline Road to Coral Bay for a total of 8.375 miles.
In 2004, Jeremy Zuber of St. John finished first in the men's division with a time of 49:32. St. Croix resident Letitia Dusich finished first for the women with a time of 57:15. Both set course records. Alter said Zuber is expected to compete again this year, but that he understands Dusich is not planning to attend. Pointing out that the race is always up for grabs, he said, "We just wait and see who shows up."
While top winners are usually on the young side, the race attracts people of all ages. Some racers are well into their 70s when they tackle the difficult course. Participants also walk, and some even push baby carriages.
Runners come from across the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and the United States. Many mainlanders schedule their vacation to coincide with the event.
The 8 Tuff Miles race wraps up with an awards ceremony to be held at 4 p.m. at the national park's ball field, located next to the Visitor's Center.
The number of participants has grown in leaps and bounds from the 21 who first ran the course in 1997. The event is now the largest foot race in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
In addition to the overall prizes, awards are given in men's and women's age categories. Alter said the first-place male and female finishers overall will go home with $250.
The top three winners in each age group of runners get a trophy. The top walkers in each age group will also take home a trophy.
The first 700 people across the finish will receive a participation medal.
Additionally, the first person to complete the course in 48:02 or better wins $1,500.
"It's doable, but difficult to achieve," Alter said.
Anyone who completes the course is eligible to win door prizes, including a $1,000 shopping spree at Mongoose Junction shopping center, a weekend for two at the Westin Resort and Villas, and a weekend for two at Caneel Bay Resort.
The event includes a scholarship program. The first place girl or boy in the 12 and under category wins a $500 scholarship. The first place male and female finishers in the age 13 to 16 category win $800. The top man and woman in the age 17 to 19 category win $1,000. The money is held until the student goes to college or continues their post high school education.
Registration is $30 for adults, and $15 for those under age 19. Participants may sign up at the following:
– Until Feb. 23, during normal business hours at Polli's Restaurant in Cruz Bay, or on St. Thomas at the Waterfront and Havensight Mall Caribbean Surf Co. locations,
– Thursdays, Feb. 17 and 24, at Baked in the Sun at the Market Place Shopping Center from 4 to 8 p.m.,
– Friday, Feb. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant in Coral Bay,
– Wednesdays, Feb. 16 and 23, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at Maho Bay Campground,
– Feb. 21 to 25, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in front of Connections in Cruz Bay,
– Feb. 21 to 24, from noon to 2 p.m. in front of Chelsea Drug Center at the Marketplace,
– And final registration will be held from 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Mongoose Junction.
There will be no registration on race day.
Money raised at the event will benefit St. John Landsharks, the Rotary Club of St. John, the St. John School on Gifft Hill, St. John Rescue, and the Love City Pan Dragons.
Sponsors include Holiday Homes of St. John, Carlson Construction, St. John Phonebook, Jolly Dog, and Low Key Watersports.
For more information, visit www.8tuffmiles.com.
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