Pacing for the 3:50 group this year… Year #14 of the race out of 15 previous years with #13 skipped due to change in ownership.
I set up and worked at the Expo on Friday. It was small, but in a great location – right in the pavilion next to the start and finish line for all on the weekend’s races. There was a tent on the outside of the building that was already set up for us. It was a great location because everyone had to pass us to come in and out of the packet pickup location. We were also across the aisle from the t-shirt pickup, so we got lots of visitors, questions, and traction in the pacing booth.
I brought the banner and the marathon pacing.com bibs with some markers. Jupiter Medical Center brought large cheer posters, so I used those to write our pacer lineup for the weekend along with other signs for the booth. Jeff Gad came and worked with me mid-afternoon – this was very helpful. Pacer Erin from Wellington did not get her email in time so we did not see her.
Our pacer dinner Saturday night at Brio wasn’t as good as it should have been. We made the proper reservation at the right time, but we waited 30 minutes to get seated. After we had ordered water and drinks, our food order took near 60 minutes to come out for half of us, another 10 minutes for the other half. I know this restaurant is convenient for those coming from town, but next year I would not go back. We have enough cars and locals to get the pacers to a great Italian meal at a place we used several years ago. Lesson learned!
Marcela conducted the pacer meeting since we had a few new people. That went well. I believe some pacers were added to the lineup last minute, so we did not have shirts for them. I brought a shirt for pacer Fred to use on Sunday morning since he did not bring a spare one.
Race morning was confusing. There were two separate start lines – one for the half and full marathon, the other for a 10K which were starting later in the morning. Most Pacers met at the 10K start line for a group picture. If you were at the other start line on time, so a second picture was taken by Marcela. I instructed all pacers to leave dropped bags at our Palm Beach Roadrunner club tent. We have the personnel to watch and care for it and make their lives a bit easier!
Once in the corral, I had a few folks looking to run with me for the half marathon. Hailey Smallwood is a college student that came up through our local running program and was sent to running camp by our nonprofit organization for two summers in a row, I know her. This was her first half marathon, she decided to run with me until about 10 miles and then if she felt good she would leave and go ahead. Also starting with me was John and his daughter, Erin – she was in town from college in Ithaca, New York. My friend Dave Capparelli started with me. He and I ran the first few Palm Beach Marathons together. Scattered around my group were others I knew from our local run club. Mai Vi Callahan and Mary Galbicka started nearby my group. Last year Mai Vi ran with my group and was featured in many of the marathon’s promotional materials. I joked with her that she could be famous again if she would choose to run next to me!
I had two first time full marathoners that wanted to stay at my pace. Leah and Marisa. Also, Maureen Flynn was in my group, she was looking to get a BQ time below 3:55 for 2020 Boston. I gave a brief talk about how we would run through the water stops and stay on pace with even splits for each mile. I explained to the half marathon runners where they would be leaving us at mile 11.2. And I helped a few folks tuck their shoelaces in to avoid untying during the run.
When we started, it was very easy to get on pace in the first mile. I believe my first mile was quick at 8:38. (That’s rare!) We settled into our pace and by mile three we were right on schedule. The weather was very humid with a slight breeze coming out of the south. We didn’t really feel the breeze because the first 3 miles were among the buildings of downtown West Palm Beach. Miles 3 through 6 were heading north so we did not feel any breeze even though it was at our backs. At mile 4, I pointed out to my group the lululemon cheer squad which we would see twice in the first half marathon. They are a good group of friends, I know most of them – and they had funny signs created for the race. My group stayed together as we also picked up Scott, running a half marathon in town from Rochester, New York. Another guy in a full Ironman race suit came up and paced with us as well. Our first turnaround was at the Manatee Lagoon. Now we were running south with a slight breeze cooling us, which felt great! Hailey and Maureen and the guy from Rochester were doing a good job of staying right with me. As we went back onto wide and exposed Flagler Drive, the sun came out and it began to warm up rapidly. Even with the cooling breeze, the heat was definitely forcing people to work harder to keep our pace.
Coming back towards downtown, some of the runners slowed the pace. Maureen peeled off to visit a restroom, she did not jump back in with our group. The two full marathon girls stayed with me until mile 10, then Lea went ahead and Marisa dropped back a bit. I ran with Hailey until she told me she felt good and wanted to run the rest at a quicker pace. She did so and finished well, getting third place in her age group in her first half marathon!
I was now running alone on Flagler Drive heading south. The turnoff point for the full marathoners was at mile 11.2. Then some of the course went through a neighborhood with shade, here I ran for about a mile with a gal who then picked up her pace and ran ahead. I was still at the proper pace through mile 12, 13, 14. The race event owner, Ken Kennerly, pulled up next to me in a car and took photos with his iPhone of me running solo down the street with my sign. I made sure to take salt pills and gels on a regular basis, and always drank water and every aid station. Occasionally I would come across a runner only to pass them as they had already become vanquished in the heat. The southernmost point on the course is in Lake Worth. Here is where I caught up to Marisa, the first-timer who started with me. She had a gal on a bike meeting her at aid stations, along with her boyfriend on a bike occasionally popping up to say hi to her and asking her if she needed a visor, a drink, etc. I ran with her at pace to right before mile 19. I knew there was a porta potty at the next aid station, I told her I was going to run ahead briefly and use it quickly. I did so and popped out of the booth right as she ran past. I ran with her until just before mile 20 when she dropped back off pace.
My next encounter while solo running was Pacer Fred. He had a guy walking next to him and he no longer had his sign. I said,”Hi!” and ran past them both. The next thing for me to look forward to was my local run club staffing a water station at mile 21. I passed through that, gave a few high-fives, took a drink and kept running. I was still on good pace at mile 21 and 22. According to my pace band I was two seconds ahead of perfect timing this late in the race. The next part of the route kept me on Flagler Drive in the sun with the warm breeze pushing at my back. The course then made its final turn north towards Southern Boulevard. Now we were on Dixie Highway, completely exposed but headed towards a neighborhood with some shade. I ran across Southern Boulevard and saw Pacer Jean Louis running without his sign. I greeted him and ran past, still at my pace. I ran past two other walkers and then walked through the mile 23 aid station pouring water on my head and drinking 3 cups. I noticed my arms above my elbows were tingling. I felt some small niggles of cramps beginning in my legs, but at this point in a marathon, I should feel those things. The final 3+ miles were all on Flagler Drive in the sun. This is a new course change from previous years where the final miles kept you on shady Olive Avenue. I ran well until Mile 24 when Pacer Fred passed me. I had friends at that water stop who said I looked very pale and offered plenty of fluids. Ami Reece came along for my walk-thru the stop and gave me a few of the small water cups to drink and pour on my head. This is when Marisa (and her bike gal) also came past, she was running through the stop and said a quick, “Hi!”
When I left this water stop and approached mile 24 ½, it became apparent that my pace was slipping into the nine-minute plus per mile range. I ran straight towards downtown which was now easily in view. I looked ahead of me and saw only the distant back of Marisa, I looked behind me and saw just 2 people way behind me. I wasn’t going to get any faster at this point – so I discarded my sign and began run-walking to the next aid station. I saw my friend Janet and her two kids in a stroller waiting on the sidewalk to cheer for me. I spoke with them, took some of the drinks she had for me, and continued on. Pacer Jean Louis went by, as did another woman I hadn’t seen before at all. I made it to the two final water stops, pouring water over my head while mixing a run/walk to get to the final stretch of the course. Once on Flagler Drive in the shaded area near the amphitheater – I pulled over to stretch out both hamstrings and then ran through the finish line 6 minutes late.
Knowing the course and how to run in the heat, I don’t know what I would change about this day’s effort. I drank plenty on Saturday, stayed off my feet, had a great dinner, and got to sleep on time. Nothing felt odd or peculiar in the first 18 to 20 miles other than a warm day to run down the middle of the street alone! I know I wondered at what point in that final mile and a half pacer Helen would pass me. Not to be on this day – the first pacer on our lineup to cross the finish line in time was pacer Scott at four hours. As I have done in years past, I dropped my things off at my club tent and then went to the Jupiter Medical Center area to get a bag of IV fluid. This is a tremendous way to kick off recovery and it makes the rest of your upcoming week plenty easier to deal with!
I learned that some of the pacers also had trouble meeting their goal times, whoever was at 5:15 stopped at our clubs water station (Mile 21) and they called 911 to help him. The full marathon had less participants than in prior years, proof being that my time of 3:56 – something earned first place in my age group. A hollow victory, but years from now the small plaque won’t say anything about the temperatures eclipsing 86° at 10 AM.