It was still quite dark as the sun began to wake up along Gulfport's waterfront.
Street lights were still on. The crescent moon was quite clear in the eastern sky. The downtown streets were empty. Just about the only moving creatures were a couple of residents walking their dogs, a solitary paddleboarder and of course, the birds.
Oh, and about 65 triathletes.
The city hosted its first “Keep Gulfport Weird” mini-triathlon Saturday. A brainchild of city council member Sam Henderson, the mini-triathlon is a way, city officials thought, to not just celebrate the quaint community, but a way to link the 49th Street business corridor to the beachfront downtown, as well add yet another event to celebrate on the day of the Tangerine Blues Fest.
The mini-triathlon included a one-mile run, a three-mile bike ride and a quarter-mile swim. The mini-triathlon traveled around to Shore Blvd., ending with a swim from Shelter No. 7 to the Gulfport Casino.
The race was light, not intense, perfect for the Gulfport vibe. Families even biked in the race.
The race was so laid back that an official clock was not used. City officials just eyeballed a watch to determine the time of the winner.
Tony Duda of St. Petersburg won the race easily. He finished in 23 minutes far ahead of the rest of the pack.
Duda is a three-time veteran of the St. Anthony's triathlon. "At least I finished those, I can say that," Duda said.
Duda learned of the Gulfport event from a friend of his, Henderson himself, back in June. Once he learned of the event, he had it set in his sights.
Ann McSpaggen of Palm Harbor had always wanted to compete in a triathlon, but never did. She read about the event and decided to get her feet wet. She was the first female to finish in roughly 28 minutes.
“It was free,” McSpaggen said of her impulse to participate. “I always wanted to do one of these. This is great. Small, very family friendly. If they have this again, it won't be my [last].”
Gail Byron, technical events specialist for the City of Gulfport, hopes the mini-triathlon grows.
“This is a perfect way for family and friends to get together.,” Biron said. “Hopefully we can get some sponsors next year. It's been fun, great event.”