The St. Petersburg Distance Classic is a family-owned and operated race, originally under the “Florida Road Races” name, which organizes running events in the Tampa Bay area. Founded in 1979 by Chris and Rya Lauber, their mission was to offer the most “runner-friendly” races while promoting a healthy, active lifestyle, showcasing our beautiful beach communities, and generating a positive economic impact.
During the summer of 2022, the Laubers announced their “semi-retirement” from road race management and simultaneously announced that new race directors, Mike and Elaine Clark, would be taking over the reins for four of the five races under the Florida Road Races:
• Ft. De Soto Distance Classic in September
• Florida Halloween Distance Classic in October
• Florida Holiday Distance Classic in December
• Florida Shamrock Distance Classic in March
Due to the size, complexities, and still-formative status, the Laubers will continue to produce the St. Petersburg Distance Classic to grow it into a first-class signature event for St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, and the Tampa Bay running community.
The Laubers and the Clarks will continue collaborating under the Florida Road Races banner regarding the Starfish Race Series and joint-marketing efforts.
Starting with his first Jet Ski race in 1979, and just nine local racers competing on a company-owned Jet Ski, Chris Lauber was a pioneer in helping grow the sport over his 120+ Jet Ski race promotion career. His races peaked in the early ’90s with 275 racers, national-level sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch (5 years), ESPN coverage (5 championship races), and more than $1,100,000 awarded in prize money. Chris’ 20-year career resulted in being inducted into the International Jet Ski Hall of Fame in 2011.
Lauber transitioned to road races on January 23, 2000, with the creation of the Gulf Beaches Marathon, adding the Holiday Halfathon in December 2002, the Halloween Halfathon in 2009, the Florida Beach Halfathon in 2010, and the Ft. De Soto 15K in 2015.
Starting with nothing more than a blank piece of paper nearly 25 years ago, a vision, and tons of hard work, the Laubers hosted five races per season, all in Pinellas County, with an average of 1,200 finishers. They hosted more than 6,000 total finishers each year, with runners coming from all corners of Florida, 45 states, and 15 countries.
Our mission continues: to challenge athletes to achieve goals they once thought impossible, such as completing their first 5K, setting a personal record, or finishing a half marathon or marathon.
We aim to provide affordable, well-organized road races with the highest customer service and satisfaction. We currently do that by offering athletes the following:
• risk-free registration, with our fair refund policy (most races state “No Refunds”)
• the opportunity to switch events at no extra charge or to defer to a different race
• safe, scenic courses that are accurately measured and marked
• high-quality amenities, including gender-specific tech shirts, unique running starfish medals
• post-race celebrations featuring ice-cold beer, hot homemade pasta, fruits, pastries, soft drinks, live entertainment, and awards presentation
• FREE photo downloads to share and print
We live by the motto “People over Profits” and believe that treating athletes fairly will keep them returning, ultimately building our races. Besides, it’s the ethical, morally-correct way to build long-term friendships.
We welcome your questions or comments.If you’d like more information, please contact us at:
We’re located in the beautiful Tampa Bay area, with races in St. Petersburg, Fort DeSoto Park, and Madeira Beach to Largo.
“I really appreciate the quality of events that you put on for the Bay Area . . . the courses are scenic and easy to follow, the volunteers are super supportive, and the medals are AWESOME! I look forward to participating in your races for years to come.”
– Emily Arends, Clearwater
Our 2023-24 Season
Fort De Soto Distance Classic
15K, 10K, 5K & Virtual
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Fort De Soto Park
Downtown St. Pete