My first adventure for Palm Beach Marathon 2013 was to work at the Pacer Booth. Whoever had been there before us must have put our box full of goodies behind the counter and under a drape sheet because we didn’t know was there. We scrambled to find some pens and printer paper to allow folks to sign up with all the different pace groups. There were plenty of visitors in the first 2 hours of the show. Myself, Jeff Gad and Skye Bakker worked the booth 10-noon. It was apparent early on that my 4 hour pace group was going to have plenty of runners! I was the only local person in our booth and in the immediate area – so I found myself giving plenty of directions to the start and finish line, as well as instructions as to where people should park the next morning for the race. I picked up my “10 year Streaker” jacket, I thought it would be embroidered not a heat transfer thingy. There are only 30 people that have done all 10 races, but only 3 including myself that have done all of the full marathons.
The pacer dinner went well at Carrabas. Thank you for having run singlets available instead of shirts with sleeves. We waited for almost 1 hour before being seated, so Tom wisely used this time to host the pacer meeting. A witty waiter, good food and good laughs during the meal for everyone!
I arrived at the race morning ready to go at about 5:20 AM. It’s nice to be able to use the regular “VIP bathrooms” near the start line as a pacer. My son was with me in the morning, he was running his first half marathon. We stopped to get a good picture with Bill Rodgers and then I went into the corral a bit before 6:00 AM. I saw many of the other pacers grouped together, they had just come from taking a group photo at the start line. (I’m not sure how I missed that one?) Before the race began, I spent a little bit of time explain to my folks how to drink while we’re on the run, how to properly have their shoes tied, and the importance of using a visor or sunglasses on such a warm day. I had a really large group, most of which were half marathoners looking to finish in less than 2 hours. For the last two months I had recruited several people to run in my group as a result of setting up a training group for first-time half marathon runners. My local and friends for the half marathon were Ashley, Scott, Elizabeth, and Brett. I also had an older gentleman whose name was “Moose Man” on his bib! He had made several attempts to break 4 hrs in a marathon. His last attempt had him less than 10 seconds over his goal, so he was very anxious to do well today.
The race started 18 minutes late. That meant we were now running in daylight. It wasn’t too hot at the start but I told each runner to cherish the time in the shade and relatively cool weather. I knew it would warm up significantly later in the morning. Our first mile was completed in 09:39. I told our group that the first few miles would be slower than 9:10 pace due to the skinny streets and crowded conditions. Our second and third mile was a little faster but not yet at 9:10 pace. I had Andrea and her 4 hr 10 minute group run up near me one time, but we were making good progress heading north. My group went through the first two water stations very nicely. I was doing most of the talking with several others running very close to me also participating in the conversation. Miles three, four, five were done at our proper pace. When we reached mile marker six we were right on schedule for the 2 hr half/4 hr full. Then next 2 miles led us back to the start line area and it started to get noticeably warmer. “Moose Man” was sweating plenty, I asked him how he felt and he said OK. Another memorable full marathon runner in my group was Orlando. Orlando was a runner from New York City that used to live in Miami. He is a chef at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle steak restaurant and was one of my strongest runners. He moved to the front of the group and was talking with me for miles 5-16. Other notable runners were Eugene from Norway and Greta from nearby Wellington Florida.
Once we passed the Start/Finish line area, the roads became wider and we had more room to run our correct pace through mile seven and mile eight. That was good for everyone, there were many cheering people, music and the race announcer stoking the spectators. He knows me – so he gave us a good shout out, our group responded with some cheers right back at him. We ran along Flagler Drive hitting our correct time of 9:10 pace for miles 9 and 10. The turnaround for the half marathon runners was at mile 11. I prepared them long in advance as to how they could keep their pace for the final 2 miles. I encourage them to meet up afterwards and tell me how they finished, each runner had a “free beer ticket” attached to their bib. I suggested that as many of us meet at World of Beer afterwards to catch up and review the race. Only the local friends that started with me came to this meet-up and told me their finishing times. Ashley got 1:58:00; Brett.1:43:00; Elizabeth got 2:14; Scott the 1:57. Brett left our group at around mile 8 and ran clear to her new PR because she felt so good!
Excerpts from their Facebook posts –
Once the group split, I had maybe 8-10 people trailing me. Only Orlando would run next to me and talk, the rest would run behind me and close enough to hear our chatter and my advice. I encouraged everyone to take fluids at each station, even if they didn’t feel thirsty. We ran together for the next 3 – 4 miles in this manner. Greta worked her way to the front and talked with Orlando and I. At mile 13, my watch and pace band numbers were perfect – I stepped on the piece of tape (which was not at the same place as the MILE 13 sign) at my split, announcing to the group that we are in perfect time, we now have to do this same performance once more to get the goal time. I gave Orlando one of my Power Gels because he said he forgot his and we hadn’t reached the free ones given out on the course. My group kept going south at pace, they were happy and mostly confident.
As we left the waterfront and ran through the neighborhoods of Lake Worth, we lost the breeze. We had small bits of shady tree-lined streets, but now it was sunny and hot. Each water stop would have a person or two drink up and walk through the water stop or fall off the pace. This happened until mile 15. At that point only Eugene, Greta and Orlando were with me. Eugene fell back but assured me he was still capable of keeping the pace. Greta disappeared at mile 16 drink stop, Orlando about a half mile past that, thanking me and saying he’ll see me later in the day. Eugene ran strong although slightly behind me. We saw the race leaders and knowing our pace, I was surprised there weren’t many runners ahead of us on this out-and-back route. The heat was playing into the performance of many athletes. Notable locals I expected to see were nowhere among the leaders. I saw Steve’s 3:25 group, no Jessica and the 3:35ers, then Jeff and the 3:45 people, but I think he only had one runner left with him.
I encouraged others at water stops and on the road to join me for a 4 hr finish. This wasn’t working, in hot conditions, especially for out of town athletes, once people break – they are broken. Eugene ran slightly ahead of me for a few blocks, then would drift back, then finally near mile 19 he faded. I was now alone, trying to encourage others to run with me as I passed them. I kept my pace, stopping to get two water cups at each station instead of just my usual one cup full. I knew the heat was really dragging down people’s performances, but historically, 6-7 or the past 10 PB marathons have finished in the 80s. It’s what happens here. I was on pace according to the watch and pace band at 19. At 20, I was 15 seconds behind, maybe that was due to the walk thru the water stop. Mile 21 I was back within 4 seconds of goal time.
At Mile 22 I dashed into the bushes for a quick pee break, I was now 21 seconds slower than pace. But just like at mile 13, I saw white tape markers with “22 miles” on them in the street and the sign for MILE 22 in a spot several meters further, so I figured I was close enough to my 9:10 pace that it was good. This really didn’t strike me until I spoke with Steve Chin following the race. He mentioned some of the miles in the “twenties” were long and some were short. I did not have a GPS watch, just a timer, so I went with what the course markings (tape and sign placement) said. At 23 I was still behind, now by 30 seconds, but I didn’t feel as if my running was slowing at all. I was running alone, not encountering too many people to pass. No runners passed me or my group after mile 15. Right after Mile 23 and until after the Mile 24 sign, I was back within 8 seconds of goal. It began to rain hard. I saw clouds ahead near the Finish line area, but didn’t think I’d get caught in a downpour! Only a girl that I passed and an older guy were in this rain somewhat near me. I asked him to run with me, his name was John and my guess would be he was in his late 50s. He said this was his 360th marathon and he was slowing down rapidly, he would go in himself. I saw the 7 hour pacer and the “poop wagon” bus behind him, he walked solo down the middle of Flagler drive with plenty of race course ahead of him. Mile 24 and 25 were completed on a good pace, at 25 I was only 12 seconds shy of the pace bracelet goal time.
The rain stopped as I ran alone up Federal Hwy/US-1 among the shade of trees. No fan support here, just a realization that you’re almost done. I ran next to a girl approaching First Baptist Church, a significant local landmark because it’s very close to the final turn and last ¾ mile of the course. She tried to stay at my pace but stopped at the final water stop to drink, pour water over her head, and stretch a cramping calf muscle. I ran around Phillips Point and towards the finish area, which you can clearly see from Flagler Drive along the waterway. More spectators clapped and asked where my group was. Just before mile 26, I saw the Palm Beach Road Runners tent and friends that had finished their half marathon and were celebrating with drinks and music. I ran alongside the barricade area and gave at least a dozen “high fives” to my friends. At mile 26 I was ahead of the pace, but I really didn’t noticeably increase my speed for the last mile. I could have slowed and timed my arrival as the only runner close to the finish line, but for today it would have looked ridiculously obvious. My time watch at the finish read 3:59:04, the race clock had me at 3:58:58.
I’m not sure how crucial that “30 seconds” is when conditions were rough for the average runner. Either way, I ran solo for the last 7-8 miles. I easily could have arranged to stand near my friends just past mile 26 and pop over the finish line extremely close to 3:59:30. I don’t know how I was erratic in the last few miles – hopping behind pace and then getting to the finish ahead of schedule? It seemed as if my effort and pace were consistent throughout the day.
World of Beer afterwards – fantastic post race scene with great friends and many laughs! We stayed until my friends Rouba and Olivier came. They flew from Paris to Miami last night and drove up to meet me this morning! So many people stayed after the race and had their free beer and a few more. We went to Duffy’s Sports Bar for lunch afterwards, a chicken salad and several large glasses of water were my choice. I enjoy this race each year because more of our local people participate. This year I was happy to see our “Eat Sleep Run” crew finish well. What they don’t realize is how they’ll now sign up for more events, look for better times, they have been bitten by the runner bug!