Buccaneers mascot Captain Fear ran the 5K race in just over 30 minutes
He's built more like a sprinter than a distance runner – think thickly-muscled arms and legs – but Tampa Bay Buccaneers' mascot Captain Fear has run the Bucs' 5K Draft Day Dash, sponsored by TECO Energy, for three of the last four years. He pulled out last spring due to an ankle injury suffered during an over-the-top Super Bowl celebration, but he was back in force for Dash 2004.
And, this year, Buccaneers.com was along for the ride. The team's official web site had an agent in shorts on the treacherous, 3.2-mile course, and he kept pace with Captain Fear, step for step.
Pre-race registration and check-in began at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, the morning of the 2004 NFL Draft, and the Buccaneers Cheerleaders were on hand to help the runners warm up. The cheerleaders were full of vim and vigor, even at that early hour, and they and led the pack of runners through a series of stretching exercises just prior to the start of the race.
One problem. With the race fast approaching, Captain Fear was nowhere to be found and the Buccaneers.com runner/scribe was wondering if an accident had befallen the beloved mascot. No worries; as always, the Captain arrived a few minutes prior to the start of the race and motioned that he was ready for the challenge that lay ahead. Out of the running last year, Fear was more than ready to take the 2004 Draft Day Dash by storm.
Following an inspirational speech by new Buccaneers Personnel Executive Doug Williams, who served as the official starter, the starter's pistol was fired and the pirate took off, fittingly enough, like a shot from a cannon.
The Captain ran his first mile at a blistering 8:09 pace in the hot Tampa sun. That may have been a bit faster than he had planned, and it through into question his endurance for the rest of the run. Shooting for nine-minute miles, he had run a minute quicker through the first mile.
Turning into the shaded area of Al Lopez Pak for the second mile, the burly mascot received a much needed respite from the sun and a refreshing glass of water from the Buccaneers Student Advisory Board members who were working the water station. The pace slowed for the pewter pirate during this stretch, but he still pounded out a 10:13 mile, leaving him 1.2 miles from the finish line with a split time of 18:22.
Captain Fear's goal for the entire race was 30 minutes, but he was clearly beginning to wear down. Away from the trusty confines of Raymond James Stadium and his faithful pirate ship, the Captain's energy began to drain. Still, encouragement from fellow runners – like the cheers that rain down from the stadium stands on Sundays – kept Captain Fear moving towards his goal. While his pace may have slowed, his determination never wavered.
Finishing mile three in 11:16, Captain Fear had 22 seconds to finish the last tenth of a mile if he wanted to meet his goal. It wasn't meant to be, however, as the Buccaneers mascot crossed the time in 30:33, still an (unofficial) NFL mascot record time and a solid 9:53 per mile pace.
While Captain Fear was finishing in his NFL mascot record time, Lee Stephens of Land O'Lakes and Vicki Stum of Clearwater were winning the men's and women's divisions of the Buccaneers/TECO Energy Draft Day Dash.
Stephens was the first across the finish line in 15:46. The former collegiate runner, who is also the leading 5K road racer in Race Place Magazine and the road Warrior Series, was reasonably pleased with his time, though he had hoped to go a bit faster.
"I'd like to run it in 15:30 sometime this year," said Stephens. "And eventually down the road I'd like to try some marathons and hopefully get to the Olympic trials."
Stum was the first female runner across the line and also claimed her second Draft Day Dash title in as many attempts. Her two wins weren't consecutive, as she didn't race due to injury last year, but she did lower her winning time from 18:04 in 2002 to 17:57 in 2004.
"It was awesome," said Strum. "This is one of my favorite races. I love going into the stadium. This is great. I didn't expect to win."
After the race, Buccaneers linebacker Ryan Nece was on hand to present engraved silver Wimbledon-style Championship plates to the victors, distribute prizes to the winners of the Draft Day Dash raffle and sign autographs for all of the runners. The winners' plaques were presented first, as both Stephens and Stum were called to the stage, followed by the raffle winners, who were announced by event emcee Gayle Guyardo. The raffle winners received a myriad of prizes from passes to sit on the Buccaneers pirate ship during a game to a Buccaneers duffle bag filled with hats, t-shirts and other Buccaneers merchandise.
In addition to the enjoyment of the race, the medals for the Top 100 male and female finishers, and the raffle prizes, the racers were happy to know that all of the proceeds from the Buccaneers Draft Day Dash, sponsored by TECO Energy, went to benefit local Bay Area charities.