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.
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!