By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — Rarely do we hear people complain about the heat and humidity of mid-February weather.
In Indiana and Illinois, that would seem ridiculous after we step out our front doors and see layers of snow and ice on our sidewalks.
But when you run a road race in sunny Florida, the possibility of sweating does exist.
Just ask former Indiana State distance runner Annie Cooper-Gasway, who lives in Gurnee, Ill., with her husband Casey and their two sons.
Last Saturday, she won the women’s overall championship in the prestigious Gasparilla Distance Classic 15-kilometer run along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, Fla. Her time was 56 minutes flat.
The annual race, which took place this year in temperatures above 70 degrees, is part of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
“It was very hot and humid,” Cooper-Gasway said in a phone interview this week. “It was brutal, actually.”
Imagine what some of us would give to experience that kind of brutality right now.
Having lived in the Midwest all these years, Cooper-Gasway realizes her weather statements probably sound odd to Wabash Valley residents. She graduated from ISU in 2001 with a degree in English education.
Competing for the ISU track and field team, she owned school and Missouri Valley Conference records in the women’s steeplechase until they were broken. As a senior, Cooper-Gasway won an MVC title in the women’s steeplechase and finished second in the women’s 5K.
But after she graduated, competing in road races did not rank high on her list of priorities.
“I didn’t get fat and out of shape,” explained Cooper-Gasway, who formerly taught at Northview High School. “But I did take it kind of easy… I was mainly working and raising kids.
“From 2007 to now is the first time I’ve taken road racing seriously.”
Saturday’s race started well for the 29-year-old Cooper-Gasway, who led until that dreaded heat and humidity kicked in.
“I was on pace to break the 55-minute mark until about 6 miles,” she said. “Then I just fell apart. I think I was overcome by the heat.”
At that point, recent Indiana University running standout Lindsay Hattendorf moved ahead. But Cooper-Gasway said she stayed close behind Hattendorf and outkicked her over the final quarter-mile to win the race.
Describing this as her most significant victory since she left ISU, Cooper-Gasway plans to keep training hard, enter more major American road races and start up a new running team in Gurnee.
Congrats, Annie, and try to stay cool this winter (insert wink symbol here).
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.