I had a smaller group than in years past, but a fun collection of runners spanning all ages. Hazel, a younger gal I ran with last year, explained that she wasn’t able to keep up in 2015 so she “had to let Pacer Dave go.” Our group had many good laughs with her about that for the next 13 miles!
Other runners that stayed close to me during the race were Deb, Lee, Sondra, Janet, Tim, and Yolimar. Two older guys, perhaps late 60s, Bud and his friend, “Flash” also committed to stay with me for the 1:50 goal.
I gave a good explanation of things I usually cover prior to the start:
- shoe tying
- how we handle water stops
- how to hydrate and not break pace
- GPS watches vs time and mile markers
- a consistent pace all the way.
- bathroom breaks
- communicating with me in early miles when they feel good and later if they are struggling.
I know this course well now, the start is exciting and we have two 90 degree turns before we are gliding down the river road for our out and back race. We cover our first mile in 8:47, the pace we need to center in on is 8:22. We are on that pace in mile 3 and make our time marks by mile 4, slowly increasing speed. I keep everyone apprised of our progress vs perfect time at each mile. I never tell them we are really scheduled to arrive 30 seconds early, I save that gem of a surprise for the finish area!
We can run on both sides of the road or right up the center, at least until we see the leaders of the half coming back towards us. That doesn’t usually occur until Mile 5-ish. I let people know about “running the tangents,” straight lines that keep your final mileage closer to the course distance instead of running more than required. I know where the only little “hill” or rise on the course is, so I jokingly ask the group about any special training they may have done for running up a driveway or such. Hazel, Deb, and Sondra are close with me, I notice a few others I didn’t start with following nearby, but not engaging me. Tim and Flash are behind me but attentive to our conversations.
The middle miles have us all witness the sunrise and I ask folks to act as “dolphin spotters,” so if any of us see them, we can brag later about the on-course views. The race leader, a guy in a Skechers uniform, comes by us heading back, and he already has nearly a 2 minute lead on second place. The race gets more exciting now that the sun is up and we are seeing the faster groups go by us heading home. At the turnaround, we take water and notice no turnaround timing mat? Not that anyone we saw did, but any athlete could drop into the porta potty and come out and turn for home…
Once we turn around, my group becomes quieter. Some are near their max exertion I surmise, so I keep talking and offering tips and tales to distract them from the running. I build some excitement by telling the group that we are now the runners of desire, meaning the folks still heading to the turn around wish they were us! And it’s true, we get good shout outs and compliments on our time and we “high five” a good number of runners on the other side of the road. It’s fun and a good diversion for the people in my group that choose to participate.
We are right on pace, crossing each mile marker never more than 8 seconds off on the slow side, and we hit mile #11 2 seconds fast. Hazel drops back and is still in view, Deb, who wants to break 1:50 for a half marathon qualifying spot to her first NYC marathon, tangles with another lady and the other girl falls but recovers. Deb is nearby and still able to keep our pace. In the last two miles, another girl joins my group and powers ahead, I didn’t get her name. Flash is right next to me, Tim is right off my right shoulder. Hazel is less than 20 yards back and I keep motioning to her to stay with us. An occasional “thumbs up” lets me know she is doing well.
The final mile and a half is flat and basically a straightaway leading to the curvy finish area. Now we have fans cheering for us and we see the first marathoners coming at us with police motorcycle escort. Sondra asks if I think she can “go for it,” I say definitely and she surges forward. We are right on time at mile 12 and 13. I tell the group they can go ahead but I have to finish near the original goal time, which I do in 1:49:33. I collect my runners at the finish area and review their progress, which is significant! Yolimar, who stayed near us has a PR for the half. Tim does, too! Flash compliments me and compares this great finish with his last half marathon. He apparently went with a 1:50 pacer that stopped running altogether at mile 9, leaving him to finish in 1:55 something. He is very happy with his time today!
Hazel comes in less than 120 seconds behind us, satisfied with today’s effort. I bet I’ll see her again next year, she is a local member of the Space Coast Runners club.
I am happy to run this event, the course and organization is very good. The after-race amenities and finish line area is terrific! I recommend this event to anyone – the weather was warmer this time but still very favorable for Florida runners entered in the half marathon.