Off to the Races

Camp Gladiator Is Bringing 'Fitness Races' to Nathan Benderson Park

A race without running? Yep—the Beat the Heat race series consists of workout moves instead.

By Allison Forsyth August 2, 2022

Camp Gladiator

Participants in a Camp Gladiator fitness class.

We've covered great places to walk and run in Sarasota, but what about a fitness challenge that doesn't require running?

Camp Gladiator—a national fitness franchise with trainers in Sarasota—is hosting a Beat the Heat fitness race series that consists of workout moves instead of running, at Nathan Benderson Park.

The first race will take place on Saturday, August 27, at 8 a.m., and will cover the length of the park's 3.5-mile loop trail around the lake.

"I'm not a runner, but I like the idea of competing in a race setting along a path," says Camp Gladiator fitness trainer Willie Thomas. "That's why we've partnered with Nathan Benderson to create this chip-timed series, so you can compete against your friends or yourself."

Thomas says while anyone can join this race, it is going to require some training leading up to the event. He hosts Camp Gladiator outdoor fitness classes at the park on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where he incorporates moves like lunges, planks, squat jumps and rucksack (weighted backpack), and sand bell (a neoprene disc filled with sand) weightlifting—all of which are included in the Beat the Heat races.

"The race on the 27th will include a 1,000 meter erg rowing machine row, some body weight challenges, pushups and more on the grass," says Thomas. "The fitter you are, the more challenging it will be, because you can cater the race to your level of difficulty."

More fitness-themed races will take place throughout the year, including a Gobble Gauntlet on November 25 and a themed race in March 2023, which will feed into the national Burpees for Victory nonprofit challenge that local trainer Liz Raedeke participated in this year.

"The great part about these races is that you can keep improving your time and performance with each one," says Thomas. "In sports, there's always something to improve upon. There is never really a finish line. Functional movements like these repeated over time will help you meet the goals you want to reach."

While Thomas says there isn't the option to participate in teams just yet, it something that Camp Gladiator is looking into. Registration is open online at, and costs $69 per person. Race packet pickup will take place in a location to be determined.

Once you've trained and you're ready, show up for the race at 8 a.m. at the park's tower. After making it through all four stations, celebrate at the finish line with a DJ, race bags with T-shirts, an award ceremony with medals for the winners, and vendor booths including Five-O Donut Co., Publix, Tapout Performance Drinks and more. Check out the race on Facebook to learn more about vendors and race details.

Thomas, who will be there on race day, has a national Camp Gladiator trainer for 10 years. He teaches three times per week at Nathan Benderson Park and at Tatum Ridge Elementary School, along with his own private coaching and nutrition business. He attributes his love of sports to his passions for training.

"I love to open people's eyes to training and movement," says Thomas. "People don't think of themselves as athletes, but our bodies are athletic. Once we realize that, we can exercise to help them move better."

To register for Camp Gladiator's Beat the Heat race series at Nathan Benderson Park, click here. Sarasota Magazine readers can get a special $10 discount on registration when they use the code SRQMAG.  The first race will take place Saturday, August 27 at 8 a.m. Nathan Benderson Park is located at 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota.

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