Will Robinson prepares for 10K at preserve named for his father
Rep. Will Robinson with Parks and Bill Robinson. Photo courtesy Will Robinson.

Will Robinson
The Robinson Preserve Twilight 5K &10K takes place March 22

There’s an important run on the horizon for state Rep. Will Robinson, even though he remains unopposed. The Bradenton Republican on Friday will join throngs of runners at the Robinson Preserve Twilight 5K &10K.

While anyone who visited Robinson’s Tallahassee office likely noticed the finisher medals on display, this annual run remains especially dear to the lawmaker. It’s held at the Robinson Preserve, 487 acres of public land named for Robinson’s father William Robinson, Sr.

The elder Robinson, who died from leukemia in 2020, once owned the property, once farm land that had been intended for conversion to a golf course. But in an arrangement with Manatee County, the environmentally sensitive land instead was set aside for a permanent environmental preserve.

“It’s one of most attended tourist-attracting areas in Manatee County, but it’s a passive park with trails for jogging,” Robinson said. “It’s been kept in a natural state, like a piece of Old Florida.”

The run has taken place over 16 years and raised roughly a half million dollars since then, most of that benefitting the preserve.

The upcoming race, taking place March 22, is expected to raise between $30,000 and $50,000, with proceeds also partially benefitting the Big Bill Foundation. That nonprofit, established after the elder Robinson’s death, provides scholarships for youth battling childhood cancer or other life-threatening conditions so they can participate in extracurricular activities.

About $45,000 in scholarships have been given out in the last three years. Four scholarships, each worth $5,000, will be presented at the race this year.

“There’s very inspirational stories we always hear,” Robinson said. “They are very worthy families.”

Robinson recalls his father as an avid sportsman. He for years had run a family sporting goods business and grew it to a regional business ultimately sold to Woolworths. Later in life, Bill Robinson and Parks Robinson, the lawmaker’s younger brother, founded Fit2Run, a successful franchise today.

While Rep. Robinson is a serious runner — he’s completed two Ironman races and two Boston Marathons — he notes this race has many casual athletes. “It has a lot of kids out there, and a lot of people with strollers and walkers,” he said.

It’s also one of the few races that starts at twilight, around 6 p.m., rather than requiring runners to corral before the break of dawn.

For Robinson himself, it’s a way to stay connected to his own father, who he ran with as a child. The lawmaker recalls crossing the Sunshine Skyway with his dad when those races took place in the mid-1980s.

In spirit, Robinson said his father will be running alongside him again later this week.

“I just think he’s looking down on us proud,” Robinson said. “A lot of hard work goes into the race. It’s wonderful it has continued on.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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