Run, rock and de-stress from Irma
It had been a long week for those who had no power or tired arms from raking debris or stress headaches after Hurricane Irma.
Staci Zavattaro was in need of a run.
So were about 1,700 others in Casselberry early Saturday for the Florida Hospital Battle of the Bands 5K.
They ran on residential streets that were still intermittently marked with fallen limbs and leaves from Hurricane Irma’s wrath.
Up a hill after mile two, many gawked at a large tree that fell on a 1988 Oldsmobile in a driveway. “Look!” a man blurted out. “Oh, my God,” said the woman next to him.
The car’s owner, June Juaristi, was used to the staring.
About 300 people, she figured, have driven by since the storm, then abruptly stopped and backed up to take a picture.
Now as the runners strode by, Juaristi sat in a chair in her garage, impressed by their speed. The tree blocked her direct view, so she saw only their legs hurrying past.
Juaristi, who has lived in the house for 30 years and runs her own housecleaning business, was thankful she was safe. The Oldsmobile, which wouldn’t start before the storm, was only a possession, not her main vehicle.
“We were lucky,” said Juaristi, 62.
She decided to wait to remove the tree until after the race so it wouldn’t affect the route.
At least the impressive sight — a tree crunching the trunk of her car — gave the runners something to marvel at as they labored up the hill, she figured.
Several 5K participants said they were relieved the race wasn’t canceled.
“This race kept your mind off Irma,” said Beth Jeck, 57, a Kissimmee resident who works in merchandising at SeaWorld. “I’ve been waiting for this all week.”
Many runners still found a way to exercise.
A runner for almost half her life, Jeck ran on the treadmill at the hotel she evacuated to during the storm.
A Track Shack official marathon training program was canceled Sept. 9, but more than 100 people showed up anyway to informally squeeze in one last run together before the storm hit. Some were full of adrenaline, pushing a fast pace to get back before the weather turned bad.
But by Tuesday, Casselberry officials promised Saturday’s race would still be on at Lake Concord Park. The roads were mostly clear.
“The city just came together,” said Casselberry Mayor Charlene Glancy, whose own house was one of the last in the city to finally get electricity back Friday night. “We feel very blessed.”
Still, race organizers dealt with several challenges.
Track Shack, the popular Orlando running store that sponsored the race, was closed until Wednesday afternoon because it was without power.
The race advertised “Live bands playing on the route! Beer at the after-party!”
So organizers scrambled to find generators to power the music and ice to keep the beer cold. They found a place to buy ice and sent a truck to pick it up at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, about three hours before the race began.
For Zavattaro, it felt good to be back to running as life was returning to normal.
“I don’t think people really have had a moment to process how stressful the situation was,” said Zavattaro, 34, an associate public administration professor at the University of Central Florida.
Running was stress-reliever.
At Saturday’s race, she ran to feel happy, so she wore a yellow tutu, dangly earrings, sunglasses and matching fishnet gloves — an homage to her favorite 80s music.
“I’m a turtle. I’m slow as heck,” she said. “But I don’t care. I’m here. I’m having fun.” the perfect