Is there room on the Sunshine Skyway for another road race?

Overhead view of Skyway 10K on Sunday morning

About 7,000 people participated in the first Skyway 10K on Sunday morning.
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About 7,000 people participated in the first Skyway 10K on Sunday morning.

Last month's Skyway 10K was a huge success with 7,000 runners taking advantage of the unique experience to cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as the sun cast an array of reds and oranges into the sky as it rose over the horizon.

So, did the inaugural race that temporarily closed the bridge open the door to making the Skyway the next premier destination for runners?

One man has always thought so. Shane Henry has been working for almost five years to organize a half-marathon over the bridge in the early morning hours of New Year's Day. He pushed for the race to happen on Jan. 1, 2017, but he couldn't win the backing from a local government needed to close the bridge.

The logical choice was first to approach Manatee County, which ultimately did take on the responsibility of the 10K but not Henry's half-marathon. Henry only needs one of the three municipalities involved to step up to make the race happen.

"Unfortunately, Manatee County did not approve it for last year," Henry said, so he is shifting gears and wants Palmetto to take ownership of the event.

"I'm asking for Palmetto to take the lead," Henry told the Palmetto City Commission on Monday. "I kind of see the writing on the wall with the county and I'll work with your staff on the event. Manatee County doesn't seem to want to move forward with me. They've been looking at this for four years and their first response was that they didn't believe there would be enough economic impact so with your support, the economic impact would be here in Palmetto."

Palmetto City Commission members did express interest in knowing more about Henry's idea. Further discussion is set for the commission's May 7 meeting.

Skyway half marathon map.JPG
The proposed route for a New Years Day 2019 half marathon over the Skyway Bridge. Provided

The Sunshine 10K in March was capped at 7,000 runners and sold out a month ahead of the race. Henry's goal for his first bridge event is 10,000 people.

There was some skepticism from officials whether that many runners would participate, but the March event's popularity revealed a large running population that loves unique events and locations.

"This was one of the best experiences of my life," Bonnie Burgess Wiedman said in her review of the Sunshine 10K on Facebook.

Tim Kulig said it was a, "Great event! What an experience to be running across the Skyway Bridge as the sun was rising. Breathtaking views and images!"

Henry said he chose New Year's Day not only as a symbol to start a new year in a healthy and unique way, but because closing the brigde between 6 and 10 a.m. would have the least impact on motorists. FDOT estimates a maximum of 1,000 drivers may be affected by having to find an alternative route on New Year's Day morning.

Henry proposes four shuttle locations to include the Manatee Convention Center, Desoto Square Mall, Sutton Park in Palmetto and downtown St. Petersburg. More information can be found on his Skyway Half Facebook page.

March's Skyway 10K run benefited the Armed Forces Family Foundation. Henry's event, too, would benefit local charities.

Organizers of the March Skyway 10K did not immediately return a call for comment, but indicated on their Facebook page that planning for a second event is underway.