27 miles (?) The 11th running of the Palm Beach marathon was one to remember. I covered the 10am-12pm Sat shift in the Pacer booth. Our booth placement was out of the way – there was a main “horseshoe” shaped collection of vendors that were centered on the grass at the Meyer Amphitheatre, we were not among that group. Being aside near the Lifetime Information booth was not an ideal spot. My friends from the area were challenged to find me, knowing I was in the Pacer booth and on the premises. In the booth, we no longer take name lists, didn’t have pace bands, so we have evolved into Q&A for pacing, which is fine. I knew to recommend folks to runnersworld.com or marathonguide.com if they wanted to make a wristband for the very next day. Pacer Fred and Pacer Rachel arrived at noon and took over the booth duties.
Dinner at Zuccharelli’s was memorable. Good food, everyone found the restaurant ok, and apparently this Saturday night was special. They featured live entertainment from male and female opera singers. Sometimes too loud, we did enjoy the décor, occasional holiday song, and laughs the duo brought to our meal. I think the group enjoyed the overall experience. We might look to return and start a bit earlier, as restaurants are crowded on the weekends so eating in a timely fashion becomes a challenge!
Race morning went smoothly, we met prior to 6am for a team picture.
The race started on time, I had a healthy group of 15-20 ready to go along at the 3:55 full/8:58 pace. This year, the new course was very favorable to help the half marathoners since they would be with us for over 11 miles. Doreen, Erica, Heidi, Paul, Ryan, Bill, Brad, Samira (Sami) and three girls clustered together made up the group that surrounded me in the early miles. My friends Dave, Walter and Keith also started with my group, all were doing the half and each one was only with me for less than 3 miles. They sped up once the crowd dissipated on the long straightaways early on the course. Starting was 64 degrees. Mile 1 done in 9:22, Mile 2 had us still 20 seconds behind goal pace, by Mile 3 we were 12 seconds off. At Mile 4 we stayed on pace, the group was doing very well with vibrant and funny chatter from Erika and Doreen. Brad was close by and happy to be doing this pace. We stayed on recommended pace (within 3 seconds of perfect) for the rest of our miles to the half turnoff. My group at mile 11 was about 13 people, with 7 staying past the turn to run the full distance. I wished my halfers good luck, told them to keep the same pace for two more miles and they’d have their prize… and meet my at the beer tent after we were done running to Key West I joked!
The push to 26.2 – Wider roads and well placed water stops allowed us to stay at goal pace in West Palm Beach (Miles 12-15) and into Lake Worth (Miles 16-18) My group pared down, Doreen and all but two of the guys left us. We saw Pacer Scooby as we approached mile 17, he said the course was marked wrong ahead. This was the first year on a new course that used up early miles in the north section of town and wasn’t scheduled to go as far south as in previous years. I was ok on our time until mile 18, then we discovered two things wrong. Mile 19 wasn’t close to what our watches or my pace band was saying – we had now slipped to over 4 minutes behind – impossible! Plus I saw us running in parts of Lake Worth that had never been on the course before nor denoted on this year’s course map. I assured my group that we would continue running our pace and it would clear up at the end. We acknowledged something was marked wrong, but I assured the group I was going to get them home and in a great time. Erika, Heidi and Ryan were first time marathoners. Sami and Paul were on their second full marathons. Under four hours would be a PR for those two. The five of us, occasionally joined by stragglers from faster paces headed north up through Lake Worth and back into West palm Beach for miles 20-22. No corrections were evident in the mile marker placements, it was obvious something was placed wrong course-wise after mile 18. I knew where we were and that the mile markers for 23,24, 25 were correctly placed this far from the finish line. I kept the group together as we left the shade of the neighborhoods for the final miles along the sunny Intracoastal Waterway. Our pace was in the 8:55-9:00 mile range, but each mile marker showed us between 4-4:40 minutes slow on overall goal time. I didn’t announce it to my group – but they were in the process of completing their first ultramarathon! I explained that if they were running for a Boston qualifying time that they might be able to get the time adjusted for the extra distance, not a worry, no BQ attempts in my group. Sami and Erika stayed right with me, Ryan and Paul ran together right behind us. At mile 23 Paul faded and walked through a water stop, he was unable to catch back up into our group. Sami explained she was sore and it was tough to keep up. I explained our strategy was to keep clicking on pace for small bits, to the next stop sign, traffic light, etc. It worked! Sami stayed on, Erika and Ryan kept pace, we were in good shape at mile 24…
In the final mile, Erika felt strong and zoomed ahead. Ryan was content getting back under 4 hours, he was behind us but easily in view. Sami and I ran step for step in the sun, with a great breeze, around the Phipps Point buildings and under the bridge to Palm Beach Island. I kept telling her how close it was – we could see the top of the amphitheatre and knew the finish line was right there. We watched Erika cross and I told Sami we would cross together or she could finish solo for her pictures – she absolutely wanted to have me with the sign in her finish photo – so under the chute we went! We took a group picture – Ryan, Erika, Sami and I. It was a great feeling to have them all finish in times they were proud of.