Chicago Marathon 2017


The second Abbott World Major Marathon of the year for me, and again I’m there in a unique capacity. Part cheer squad and spectator, part volunteer, this was an amazing weekend!

Is there such thing as an “Elite Spectator?” Trademark, Dave Masterson, All Rights Reserved!

I arrived Thursday morning before anything marathon-related was underway. I stayed in my brother’s hotel, he was in town early to attend meetings for his company. I ate lunch at Portillo’s first (a must!), then rented a Divvy bike for the day. I had a good time by myself reacquainting myself with the city. I used the bikes to see some of the 5k run course, the Lakefront, riverfront bridges, Grant Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and the Loop. It was sunny weather and cooler than Florida – a welcome change! Dinner was at the Kerryman Irish Pub with John and his coworker, Ken.

Friday morning, I woke up and ran 6 miles around the lakefront and Grant Park area. The race facilities started taking shape, jeez this is a big production. Different than New York and Boston, all start and finish area things are in the same place. That is an amazing logistical feat, so many tents, trucks, and things to support 40,000 plus athletes and many more spectators. I moved our luggage to the Chicago Hilton while my brother, John, worked, this was our base for the weekend. Having a room up high in the race’s host hotel added so much to the experience!

Since I rented the Divvy bikes for a 24-hour day, I rode it to the Expo on Friday morning. It was very crowded! I thought the largest crowds would be Saturday, but Friday had McCormick Place Convention Center full of runners and run fans. I met Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor, two cheery and personable lady running legends. One guy, I believe he was with RRCA, had old photos of Joan from in the 1980s. He gave them to her, I think she knew him from far-gone racing days. The expo had many vendors, this is one of the biggest and best-run shows anywhere. Nike as the shoe sponsor had a huge presence. They have a hip and “now” image, plenty of pumping music and lines around their booth with people waiting to pay for logoed apparel from the event. I left the expo after lunchtime once I picked up my 5k bib for Saturday’s Chicago International race. Last year they had 2710 finishers. This year the race had over 7000 signups, it was a big deal. Early registrants got their home country’s flag on their bib. The packet pickup for this event was way easier than for Sunday’s marathon. Since I registered later, my number was 7000-something. No line for me to get the bib, thank you!

I lingered and walked around near the downtown area until John finished his meetings, then we met at the hotel and both went to the expo for his race things. Surprisingly, there weren’t as many people there, the floor was way easier to navigate. We saw and got a pic with Deena, I think this got John excited for all the people we’d meet this weekend. Once I explained who she was and what she was famous for… he was on the running celeb spotting train!

Our hotel was getting crowded. I went down to the Media Center and met a gal named Tamrin. She gave me an official Media Guide which I really enjoyed. A full digest of the weekend events plus runner bios, race history, stats, everything the local announcers would reference for the audience. So that’s how they know all that stuff! I saw plenty of lean, elite looking Africans milling about in the lobby and common areas. I guess all the top guns stay at this hotel! I got photos of the Winner’s trophy, a large testament to 39 years of male and female past champions. Very impressive!

All the other runners from Florida were arriving Friday after dinner, I knew people staying in different parts of the city. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and went for a strider run outside the hotel. Then I met with Monica and we walked to the 5k start. It was in the middle of downtown. They had roped off corrals, sorted by minute per mile. This was considerably bigger than I thought it would be! I did more warmup intervals on a closed off street near the start, and also tossed in a “gut-check hurdle” of a police barrier. Two others were warming up and we were watching each other, you know, without watching each other. Those high-knees exercises and 50-yard sprints take second to a steeplechase-like hurdle at 7 am. Or so I believe! I then found Jen Rapaport and Chris McKnight in the corrals. It had rained only an hour before the race, so the white painted lines on the road were very slippery. That and puddles. A small kid ran next to me down the first straightaway street until we turned under the elevated railway. He stepped in so many puddles, splashing all who were close to him. I was glad he faded in the first ¾ of a mile. Joan Benoit and Paula Radcliffe were there to start the race, I also saw Carrie Tollefson and Khalid Kannouchi in the corral up front. Big names for a big city 5k!

My race was ok – right at my usual 5k time. I noticed the GPS signals were weird among all the buildings – sometimes I was running 4:35 miles (according to the watch) and other times no readout due to running under Chicago’s famous L trains. A good course, good number of fans out early, and a great finish area scene made this event something I was glad I entered. (5k race recap here) I found Jen and Chris at the finish, Chris’ daughter Laura and then Teresa, Janet and Tom joined us having watched the run. We took a walk to show them “Mt Roosevelt” at mile 26 so they’d know what to expect on race day. I think they benefitted from the reality check of knowing the hill wasn’t a big deal.

Teresa, Kathy and Cecelia and I walked back to the Hilton and had breakfast at Kitty O’Shea’s in the hotel. Before going in, I spotted Noah Droddy, the American “first timer” looking to score a good time at the marathon distance. He had the big mustache, the hair down to his beltline, and the baseball hat on backward. He was going across the street into the park for a run, we got a good photo with him.

Back at the Hilton, John and I had some breakfast then got a ride to River North to meet Christie Brinkley. She was in town to promote Little Smiles charity and also her new line of Prosecco drinks. John went along and we really had great laughs with her and the others that came out. It also made for some amazing photos!

John wanted to minimize his walking around, so we did local things near the hotel. I connected with Monica’s husband to shore up a good strategy for him and the kids to see their mom on the course. It’s really nice to be a part of all the race buzz minus the concern of actually having to run the marathon. I went out with Teresa, Kathy, Cecelia, Teresa’s aunt and Brenda to Miller’s Pub on Saturday night. (Teresa’s first view of it had her saying we should stop at “Killer’s Pub) A few drinks and laughs, why not. Back to the Hilton, where things were quieting down. The big race was tomorrow and most were already in their rooms sleeping or winding down.

My AWD volunteer duties had me up for a 5 am meet up with the group. I met Marcel Hug on the el

evator and recognized him easily. He was with his coach, who John and I saw and spoke with the night before. I asked him if the black fabric bag on his lap contained a certain chrome helmet, he replied, “Yes” with a big smile and I wished him good luck. I received a hat, jacket and Start and Finish Line credentials. AWD athletes were already in the lobby, they know the drill. It takes time to get them and their gear to the start, that was our first role. I walked over with Ernst Van Dyke, a pre-race favorite from South Africa.We had a special tent on Monroe Street where we helped athletes get settled and prepped for the start. I ushered a few up the hill and into the tents, then stood at Monroe and Michigan Street with a Chicago policeman answering questions and helping runners located the entrance to the general corrals. Once 6:25 am came, I headed to the tents and start line area. I helped some of the non-wheelchair bound runners across the start area to the restrooms. I got some great pics of the elite warmup zone. I met Jordan Hasay’s aunt, who was looking for her dad and the elite runners. Press, photographers and running “dignitaries” were all over. I saw Dave McGilvary walking around the starter’s area, Carey Pinkowski, the race director, and Alberto Salazar. The wheelchair athletes were warming up and doing equipment checks, the American athletes in the Development program had an area to wait in for the start, it was exciting to see. The elites had their own tent, porta-potties, and patch of Grant Park grass to warm up on. Jordan Hasay came out early, sat on the start line and adjusted her shoes and socks. I saw Dennis Kimetto, Sam Chelenga, Noah Droddy, Kirui the defending champ, all of them. When Galen walked towards the start area, a coach put his hands on Galen’s head, they bowed towards each other, then Galen blessed himself and got ready for the race. This was the whole show unfolding very close to me. And I took this video – look how calm the eventual race winner is!

All of the runners were in their corrals prior to the National Anthem being played. I couldn’t see the end of the corrals – it was so many people. I was right on the start line for the wheelchair start – getting good photos of the top male and female push rim athletes. A few minutes later, the rest of the runners from Wave #1 were sent out, led by the elite men and women. In between Wave #1 and #2, we moved all of the AWD day chairs and gear to the AWD finish zone. I met Kelly Breen, one of the AWD leaders in Chicago. She explained how it’s taken years for the Achilles and AWD organization to get the prominent placement in and around the start and finish area. The finishing tent was well appointed with coffee, drinks, food and massage tables for the finishing athletes. And private restrooms!

Once the athlete equipment was moved, we got to the Finish line area to begin waiting for the wheelchair finishers. Marcel Hug and Tatyana McFadden won the push rim races, I helped a guy with an Illinois jersey along with his female teammate back to the tent. I made another run back and forth with a different finisher before waiting at the finish for the men’s and women’s race winners. Galen Rupp sizzled around the final turn and won convincingly, that drew a huge roar from the full bleachers! Turunesh Dibaba was uncontested in her win, but the big deal was Jordan Hasay’s 3rd place finish in a new American woman course record and second fastest US lady marathon time ever. The whole finishing zone was amazing – great sunny weather, all sorts of buzz and great finishes by Americans. I saw Luke Puskedra and Noah Droddy finish strong also. As a group, we kept escorting athletes back to the AWD tent and cycling back to the finish to repeat the process.

I checked in on our locals using the race app. TCS made it very easy for fans to see where each runner was on course, including split times and estimated arrivals. Tom and Janet would be here first, Teresa and Missy not far behind them. My brother and Monica started in the third wave, so they were an hour off gun time. I waited in line to help athletes all while looking for those I knew to finish. I somehow missed Janet and Tom. I saw Jen Rapaport. Then I missed Missy and Teresa. It’s a real challenge to see all of the finishers coming across the line while trying to pick off their faces. It was considerably warmer now than when the first runners came across. It was going to be a long day for the Wave 2 and 3 runners.

I was in the right spot for Monica and John’s finish, getting a short iPhone video of each of them. I helped Teresa with a quick med tent visit, she was tired and dehydrated. The a/c in there was very cold, I think that aided her quick turnaround. Good staff and a personable 68-year-old physician made that a positive experience. Our group met in the Afterparty area, that was also well done by the Chicago Marathon team. Live music, happy runners, and beer flowing. Chicago’s runners had good weather this year. Too warm for some at the end, but most took advantage of it at the after party.

We went back to Kitty O’Shea’s to celebrate after the race – this made for good pics and laughs. I saw Sam Adams 26.2 Brew for sale, that was a surprise. The familiar taste and accompanying good cheer was not a surprise. Today, I saw running history with the Galen win and Chicago’s 40th anniversary of the big race. The course’s back half was very exposed to the sun and heat – but everyone adjusted and made it back – no runner dropouts among our group. I’d race Chicago again – this is a great scene for the runners and the people like me that came to be a part of the event.

We saw more pro athletes in and around our hotel on Monday. Marcel Hug at the coffee shop, Tatyana McFadden walking her dog outside the hotel, and John met Noah by the hotel entrance. He told John that he has 25 marathons in him, not to stop at “21 and done.” 

So that’s the advice a first timer like Noah is giving to the mortals?


Breeze minus 10

8mi. It’s not often I’m first at Blue Heon Bridge, but however, the traffic lights aligned – I was alone at 4:46 am in the parking lot.

I ran a warmup lap by myself. My car said 69 degrees, leaving my house the weather app said 64 degrees. This is common, it’s warmer by the water. There was a significant wind, maybe 12-13 mph. That made 69 degrees feel about 10 degrees cooler. I figured this would happen, so I wore a singlet instead of the long sleeve shirt. Wise choice, after all these years I may have properly learned to dress!

I ran warmup lap #2 with Walter and Teresa, then 5 bridge laps with Teresa. The final lap I was next to Adrienne and Buffy going up and Matt K coming down. I tried my first run in the new Skechers Go Run Ride 6, hopefully, I have them laced up correctly for a good performance in Miami!

20 for Alton

5 miles On a day when I thought we’d be running on the Benjamin Track, we arrived and had the intervals on the Alton streets again.

I used this to put myself over the lululemon Strava Challenge 80k mark. I felt “heavy” running the intervals this morning. I saw my watch at a 6:15 pace when I glanced down a few times… it should be faster than that for under one mile repeats. I ran behind Zeke, who was very quick today, Seth and sometimes a third guy with a baseball hat that I didn’t recognize. A few of the intervals were run with Mike Sheehan.

Paul said we’d be back on the track tomorrow – that will be good, we had 20 people today, the most ever for the Alton run.

1 mi warmup

200m w/100m recovery
800m w/100m recovery
300m w/100m recovery
700m w/100m recovery
400m w/100m recovery
600m w/100m recovery
500m w/100m recovery
500m w/100m recovery

1 mi cooldown

Our winter runs

5 mi.  Last year we had such a mile season for cool weather. I didn’t have to dress “warm” except for when I thought my wimpy fingers would need gloves. Surely this was “global warming” hitting the homefront.

Today I started in 36 degree temps with an 11 mph wind coming from the NE. At Alton, the neighborhood where we run when the school track is locked, that means exposed to the wind on one long 400m straightaway.

Paul had a plan for us, we ran the usual warmup of a mile, then ticked off the intervals below. My fingers were cold at times, I retracted my thumbs into the lightweight gloves on a few of the runs. I ran behind Seth, who was very fast, and in front of Gary. He was doing his  last warmup before the Disney Marathon this weekend.

1 mi warmup jog

400m w/100m recovery
400m w/100m recovery
400m w/100m recovery
400m w/100m recovery
600m w/100m recovery
600m w/100m recovery
600m w/100m recovery
600m w/100m recovery

1 mi cooldown jog

I wore an Underarmor warmgear longsleeve shirt and another longsleeve over that. I had a skull cap hat with a pair of lululemon light gloves, plus North Face long run pants.


Enjoying the straights

5 Miles – Doing a track or speed work out the morning after a Christmas party outing definitely tests your discipline. Very easily I could’ve stayed in bed this morning!

The Benjamin School’s front gate was locked when we arrived – second week in a row. Paul was prepared with lights and a workout for the group, see photo.

I ran with Zeke and Janet for these intervals. We hit some cool pockets of air near the Eastern side turnaround, that felt nice! Janet did well to finish strong on the shorter sprints – dueling with Zeke all the way to the line. My PBRR Social drinks kept me from joining in on that!

We won’t have regular oval track workouts until week of Jan 8th when the school reopens.


On a good track

16.5 mi – I started at 5 am with Janet, we ran to PGA and back in between 8:20-8:30 pace. Once back, I met with Erica for what she explained would be a 7:45 pace.

We ran behind Rick, Steve Jackson, Seth, Adam, and Mark Aitken. Erica sais she didn’t want to keep their pace, we were at about 7:30 when the daylight began. It was cool and 57 degrees, not much of a breeze.

We didn’t stop for water at the turquoise roofs, we continued on at now a 7:15 pace through Carlin Park and into the Inlet park. All of us made a quick stop for drinks and restroom, then back on it again, this time a little faster. Once we cleared Circle K (Pitstop) convenience store, we quickened the pace to between 6:55-7:05 per mile. I felt really good even with the 6 miles done earlier. We did stop for a quick water break on the way back south, I used the faint blue Gatorade for my drink. We came back the final 2+ miles at a good pace – Steve and Rick went ahead, Adam peeled off for the restroom and Erica and I followed. Erica stopped for a bathroom break and I ran solo to Donald Ross Road. I finished today with 16.5 miles, 44.5 for the week. This is more than my usual but it makes for good testing of the New Balance 1080 shoes I was sent to evaluate.

Once I finished, I waited at DD for winners of AG awards from Classics By The Sea to pickup unclaimed prizes.

2017 Palm Beaches Marathon

The 13th running of our hometown race was memorable. The new ownership does things right, the financial hindrances of the past are gone. This race and its accompanying weekend of events are a stock on the rise.

The Bill Bone 5k on Friday night was a fun race. The event was larger than last year, and the fireworks were a very big hit! Having large local sponsors and a presence from so many businesses in our community was important. Our Palm Beach Roadrunner tent was a gathering spot for locals to leave gear and have a beer afterward. We even met two girls that signed up for our club the next day ~ and returned to hang out and cheer in our tent for Sunday’s races!

The pacer’s dinner was good from the food side, but bumpy otherwise. Brio restaurant claimed there was no reservation but I had confirmed with their folks just hours before via their call to me. They claimed the reservation was for 12 people at their Boca Raton location, 35 miles south. We sorted that out and were seated. Rachel did a good meeting at the dinner, it was helpful to the new pacers in the group. Everyone had their signs and new singlets, that was all well organized. Our plan was to eat and walk down to the festival area and start line for the second night of fireworks. Our service in the restaurant was slower than normal, and we sat and heard the fireworks as we ate our food 😦

Sunday morning was early for me. I arrived at 4 am to help set up our PBRR club tent and get ready for the beer sales our nonprofit would administer and benefit from. Our group gathered a few minutes after 5:20 for the photo at the Start line, then we had a few minutes to get ready before the delayed start.

PB pacers 17

The day was nice weather for those doing the half marathon, the temperature was 67 at the start. The decision to push pacers back by 10 minutes was a wise move. The second half was very warm, in direct sun, and temps were rising. The course had plenty of aid stations and they were in good spots, but unless athletes trained in regular daylight with long runs, they would not be performing at a high level.

My group was mostly half marathoners, with two exceptions. I had Lisa, David, James,  Dave, Julie, Morgan, Mai-Vi, Katherine, Reinhardt (from Austria), Haim (from Staten Island but born in Israel), “Du” and Sabrina as half marathoners that I spoke to before we began. There were others nearby, but they had music earphones and weren’t communicating with me. There were two ladies that started with me as full marathoners, Maria Gisela and Emily. I took time in the corral to explain the route, that we would have water before going to Palm Beach and on the bridge coming back but none on the island. I touched on the course, shoe tying, how to jog through the water stations, and what we look to do for even pacing. I explained the first two miles are sometimes slower because of the start of so many runners looking to be all at different speeds. I liked leaving the start area with so many people clustered around me!

We got out in the open quickly and mile #1 included a small rise to get on the bridge to Palm Beach. The group was fine, coming off the bridge one man kicked the curb and fell, someone next to him helped him up and caught back with our group in a quarter mile. It was still dark, but that was perfect to run directly in front of the Flagler Museum mansion, decorated for Christmas and all lit up in white. We passed onto the Lake Trail, rumored to be susceptible to flooding, but all dry and newly paved. Our group liked the views back at West Palm Beach, all lit and enjoying the first bits of a sunrise. Running on Palm Beach was touted as special for this year’s race, I know people in my group enjoyed the quick 1.75-mile tour of this exclusive zip code!

On the other side of the bridge, our run club staffed the wacky water station. Named “Winter in Florida,” it poked fun at stereotypical touristy garb and people who overdress in 69-degree weather. We were on pace as a group, easily zipping over the second and final small hill/bridge on the course. My group was good at the slightly below 9 min pace, I explained that if they went with me to the 12.8-mile mark, they would be trusted with a quarter mile on their own to finish. If they could keep the pace alone for a loop around a high school track, they’d beat 2 hours for their race.

The course wound through the small downtown area of West Palm Beach. not much crowd support here, as it’s mostly businesses. I spoke with and to the group, relaying run stories, funny marathon signs each and any of us had seen, etc. The breeze was coming from the north, so when we turned back onto Flagler Drive and along the Intracoastal Waterway at Mile 5, it felt good. We kept pace up through Northwood neighborhood, we saw the race leaders for the half and full marathons led by a motorcycle and truck with time clock. My son’s former XC and track teammate, Sammy Luttier, ended the day winning the marathon in 2:33. By 22 minutes. In his second 26.2 race. Big WOW!

Our group went north to the turnaround point at the FP&L powerplant. The loop through the parking lot at the Manatee Point curve was probably set up incorrectly, as the runners had to cross over each other’s paths twice, almost like a “Hot Wheels” crash ’em up derby track. Routing the runners into the park first would avoid that next year. The gal Emily disappeared out of our group, I didn’t see her for the rest of the day. Maria Gisela was breathing heavy and sweating hard, I reminded everyone to hydrate well even if they didn’t feel like it.

We ran south along the same road, now adjacent to the many runners at slower paces. I know many in the local community, so the out-of-towners in my group were surprised with all of the shout-outs to and from myself. At Mile 10 we were very close, prob within 6 seconds of perfect time. I reminded and encouraged everyone that they could on any given weekday run next to a friend at a 9-minute mile for a 5k. That’s all we had left! I did more of that type of encouraging and positive talk along with a dose of humor to keep people comfortable and focused on the remaining 28 minutes. Now we were running back to the Start/Finish area. They could see the tall buildings and a crane near where they’d finish. I think that helped some of them realize they were on their way to a good finish.

Maria Gisela faded and I didn’t see her after between mile 11-12. Now we had more spectators and were back among more populated water stops, so it was more fun for the runners. As we approached the start area, which we had to pass again one more time for the halfers, music and crowd support increased. They were right on for the 1:57 – something finish, and I pointed out where we split off for the half marathon turnaround. Many thanked me and made the u-turn for the finish. I was alone heading towards my run club’s water station again, I looked back and couldn’t see a single blue (full distance) marathon bib behind me. This was a first…

I ran to the 13.1 mat and clocked in at 1:57:18, three seconds off perfect timing. The next 7 miles were spent passing people running with music that didn’t respond to me talking to them. I stopped briefly into a porta potty for a quick pee break. I held my pace sign near my head to shade me from some of the sunlight. I chatted with water station folks and the sparse amount of spectators on the back half of the course. I had two relay runners pass me. Once I got to Lake Worth, I came up next to Amanda, an ultra runner using today’s race as a long run for something else she has coming up. She ran with me for two miles then worked hard to keep me in sight. Once I headed north, the sun was now behind me, thankfully. I didn’t use sunscreen or wear glasses for this one, silly to think my visor would do it all.

The last miles were a solo run through the well-shaded El Cid, Sunset Park, and the south WPB neighborhoods. It was a good decision to make the course finish in this manner. I ran the last mile with a guy named Jacques. He was struggling and I convinced him to finish strong with me. The final 3/4 of a mile was back on sunny Flagler drive. When we got within 600 yards of the finish, I encouraged him to go for the line if he had any energy left – he thanked me and picked up his pace.

I finished alone, but less than 60 seconds back was Amanda, the ultra runner. She kept me in sight (except around corners in the neighborhoods and thanked me for suggesting that she come with me. She was happy she didn’t quit or relegate herself to a walk/run mixture. Here she is!

I had to work more than I thought in the heat. I had all of my usual nutrition and salt pills. I attribute some of it to being alone for so many of the latter miles.

There were many people at the PBRR tent, Maureen, Julie and Andrea stayed to watch many of the final finishers come back. We offered them extra beer and a nice shaded place to sit. It was a good day for the Roadrunners!

2017 Space Coast Half Marathon

We had great weather conditions for this event, we had 60 degrees at the start and 63 degrees at the finish line two hours later. The team dinner was good reconnecting with the group that comes to this race each year. Only Miami Marathon has more pacer people!

My morning started early as I woke up at 3 am for unknown reasons. Not a bad thing, it’s good to have extra time to prepare. Everything in that realm is well sorted, I drive to the race and park in a new place – a dry cleaning business that’s closed for the day. I am only 2 blocks from the start line. I know the pacers are meeting at 5:15 for a photo, I’ll have been to the restroom already and in place for that. My group at the lineup consists of all ladies… Jennifer, Valerie, Keibe, Hannah, PJ,  Lori, Sondi, and Jennifer Keyes whom I know from Palm Beach county. The other Jennifer lives or runs in Jupiter, Fl. I tell her about our group and where we meet each week for long runs. Lori and Sondi ran with me last year in the 1:50 pace group – they will look to stay with me for most of the miles then surge ahead later if they feel good. Hannah is someone that knows Pacer Kristen and was told by her that my 2 hr group would be a good fit. I give a brief talk on how we handle water stops, reminding everyone to tie shoes securely and that I will do most of the talking when the going gets tougher in their later miles. A guy dressed in orange named David joins in with us during Mile #1, he stayed for most of the race before scooting ahead in the last 2 miles.

We ran the first mile in 9:54, above the recommended 9:07 pace but the road heading out was crowded. Plenty of people disregard the pace per mile signs and feel if they are in a race, they need to be near the start point. It’s considerably different than the 1:50 group which I’ve done for the past three years. In those years we galloped to pace pretty quickly. Mile #2 had us 20 secs closer and by Mile #4 we were within 10 secs of perfect timing. I chatted with some of the frontrunners in my group, we are behind Pacer Callix and his 2 hour gang. The Galloway 2 hour group correctly starts behind us, almost catches up and then takes their walk break. We do well on the first “out” portion of the course to the turnaround. I remind the group to drink and eat their nutrition before they feel hungry or thirsty. I guess that my group has a dozen people, plus a few of the “followers.” Followers refers to the runners that won’t say they ran with a pace group – but they tail us the whole way until they drop off or zip ahead near the finish.

At halfway, we turn towards home and a few have peeled off. I told folks that we would invariably go through the turn area mile a teeny bit slower than we should, there are porta potties, two aid stations and a run over the halfway point timing mat. We leave there and hit Mile #7 about 12 seconds slow. Hannah is now up front running next to me. Her mom is in the race, too, following a slower pace team. Her dad was at the turnaround, they are Space Coast locals! Today’s run will be a personal best if she can finish in the 1:5x:xx zone with me. Our group is good as a gang of 6-7 in the 8,9, 10 mile areas. We pass a few people, I invite them to join and stay with us but they are already tapped on energy for today. Hannah says at mile 9 that it’s beginning to become a struggle. I fill her with only positive thoughts about how she’s already done all the hard work in training, the majority of the miles are already done, and how soon we will be celebrating at the finish with a group photo! She was so good in breaking through whatever she was experiencing. My chats with her got head nods and positive smiles and affirmations. This was us running down River Rd. one on one, going for her best time ever. So fun!

Well here’s a race day first. At around 10 miles, I reminded my group to use the nutrition they brought. Eat a gel, chew on the gummies, whatever, don’t think that taking anything any later in the race will help your performance. Hannah pulled out a sleeve of Clif Shot Blocks, the same thing I had in my pocket. She futzed with the packaging, and I offered to help her open it so she could focus on the running. She said she was ok and that it was open and ready now. Seeing her eat the gel block, I thought I’d use some of mine – the flavor I chose to carry today was a good one. I keep mine in non-ziplock plastic sandwich bags, so they are easy to reach in and grab. I put one in, chomped down and felt a crunch. Huh? They don’t crunch! I reach in and remove it from my mouth, along with a 35-year-old tooth crown stuck to the gummy. Really? Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 11.20.12 AMI pulled the tooth off the gel and store it in my Nathan 10k pouch. I’ll be glad I did that vs pay for a new one to be created. I tell my group what happened to many laughs. Seriously, I exclaim – “I will do anything to help you reach your goals, including shed body parts and other essentials!” This lightened the mood for ½ mile and made for a good bunch of laughs as we rolled forward with less than 5k to go.

At 11 miles, I told two of the runners, David and one of the gals to go faster if they felt good. At this point, the bridge at the base of the finish line area was well in sight, I used that to encourage them to really go for it, which they did. Hannah also soaked up these truths, she was a mere 19 minutes from the best time she has ever had, and although hurting some, I kept encouraging her to just run with me, not waste energy talking unless she wanted to, and keep rolling forward. I distracted her and the group back at the turnaround, asking them to “remind me at mile 11.5 to share with you my confession for the day.” That builds curiosity and Hannah was quick to remind me once we passed the 11 mile flag. I told them that our goal as a team was really to finish 30 seconds early – if they were with me and had started in my group, they were definitely going to get a sub-2 hour time if we finished together. I think that realization, with the tall condos and finish area in view, helped Hannah and two other gals significantly. They knew and believed they could!

The final 2 miles had all of us making sure we had good bib placement and smiles ready for the on-course photographers. I told my group the photographers usually sit on the long last straightaway. I also cued them in on the fact that spectators line the road and final finish area and these folks would be cheering for them. “Tingle time” for Ms. Hannah! She was right with me and at 12.5 miles I told her to run for the finish, she was so close, the last 800m was only two laps around a high school track. The rest of my small group did the same. Lori and another gal we had passed lined up next to me and sped up. I explained that I had to finish on time, but they were encouraged to surge if they had energy and felt good. For the final half mile, only I ran in with the 2 hour Galloway pace group leader. He said his group ‘kinda all ran with me, the run pace of a 2 hour run/walk group was pretty aggressive he explained. So I finished at 1:59:27, almost tripping over a rug they put done on the last curve to cover wet dirt. I took good pics with some in my group at the finish. Hannah was clearly the star of my group, she fought hard and really achieved what she hoped for a mere two hours coast

It’s very rewarding to have been a part of that type of personal triumph. I know she was working hard and feeling discomfort. A few of the others met me at the finish line to thank me for the experience. I waited for a few of the girls I started with who finished in 2:02, 2:03 range.