every runner has a story

Meet Rob Mason

Rob Mason is the only runner to complete all 46 Lake to Lake 10ks, and he helped start some of the LRC races so many enjoy now. He’s made so many friends and traveled so many miles. He’s done 26 marathons and a few triathlons. He met his life partner Linda Snavely at the 2007 Aching Quad race, and they have since run in 28 countries around the world.  His home is full of memorabilia from all his adventures. 

February is the month for the Gasparilla Distance Classic, but it could also be called Rob Mason month.  Rob turns 77 this month and will be running his 46th consecutive Gasparilla. Rob read about it in Runner’s World and knew Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter were going to be there and thus his streak began that few others will ever emulate. 

Rob started running in July 1977, with his sights set on doing a 10K at Lakeland High School in September. He lived near Lake Morton at the time, so he headed out to try and go around the lake. He got about a quarter mile out and had to walk home. But he knew if he could get around that lake 3 times, he could graduate to Lake Hollingsworth. And twice around that lake would set him up to finish a 10K.

John Scimone was the president of the fledgling Lakeland Runners Club (LRC). He put that race on at Lakeland High and Rob finished it in some fashion. Then Scimone and Harold Walker, who was with the Athletic Attic at the old Lakeland Mall on Memorial Blvd., put on the first Lake to Lake 10K in October. Results were compiled by handing numbered tongue depressors to finishers, and another person wrote down race numbers on a numbered sheet of paper.  Rob ran it in 1977, and he’s done it every year since so this will be Rob’s 47th Lake to Lake, the oldest annual race in Polk County.

The Mayfaire 5K started when he looked at other cities doing races in conjunction with art festivals. He got with the Polk Museum Art and the race began. In its infancy, the 5k was three loops around Lake Morton and was small compared to the race we know today. Now in its 44th year, Mayfaire 5k has become the LRC’s largest attended event.

Rob was directing races when he came up with the idea for a low-cost summer sunrise series at Lake Hollingsworth. His idea was to put on a series with no shirt and recycled trophies. He got with Dave Quarles, who added the watermelon idea, and it was born. Finishers got a cap that first year, and there were 52 runners. The race grew and now has all the amenities of every other LRC event and since 2011, a portion of the proceeds has gone to scholarships to high school seniors. This year will be the 28th running of the Summer Sunrise Watermelon Series.

Another of Rob’s ideas was The Aching Quad, after he ran the Tour de Pain in Jacksonville. Sitting on a couch in the hotel at that race, he was talking with Mark Codd. He said he was thinking about putting on a multi-race event in Lakeland. Codd told him, just do it. The first race in 2006 was unofficial with runners timing themselves and no awards, and like a few other races that Mason started, the Morton Mile and Imperial Lakes 4-Mile that are part of LRC history, the Aching Quad Challenge had its final run in 2022.  

His good memories far outweigh any negative ones. So many friends and so many miles. He’s done 26 marathons and a few triathlons. He met his life partner Linda Snavely at the 2007 Aching Quad race, and they have since run in 28 countries around the world. His home is full of memorabilia from all his adventures. Future goals are few. Just finishing a 5K can be challenging. But the Lake to Lake will be a goal as long as his heart pumps and his legs can move. And his heart is in the right place as a long-time member of the LRC.

Rob has supported and promoted running and the LRC for five decades. He has written about hundreds of runners in his column for the Ledger. Rob served as president of the LRC from 1979-1987 and again in 2009.

LRC Race History:
John F. Scimone measured the Lakeland Civic Center 5 mile and 2.5-mile races in 1974, they were held with the Lakeland Parks and Recreation Dept until 1987, and would have been Polk County’s oldest races. Scimone was also responsible for the Lake Parker 20K (1978-1983), the Denison Stadium 1-hour run (1978-1979), the Saddle Creek Park 4 mile, the Joker Marchant Stadium 4 mile (later named the Flag Day 4 mile), and the Lakeland Senior High 10K.  Other events that are part of LRC race history are: the Toughest Race in Florida 10k (1978-1985), Christina 5k (1984-2016), Sun Screemers Biathalon (1985-1999), Last Chance 50 Miler (1989-1998), Go Green 5k (2010-2012), and Double Down 5k (2017-2019).

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