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Archive for the tag “pacing”

2017 Palm Beaches Marathon

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.

PB pacers 17

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!


2017 Space Coast Half Marathon

We had great weather conditions for this event, we had 60 degrees at the start and 63 degrees at the finish line two hours later. The team dinner was good reconnecting with the group that comes to this race each year. Only Miami Marathon has more pacer people!

My morning started early as I woke up at 3 am for unknown reasons. Not a bad thing, it’s good to have extra time to prepare. Everything in that realm is well sorted, I drive to the race and park in a new place – a dry cleaning business that’s closed for the day. I am only 2 blocks from the start line. I know the pacers are meeting at 5:15 for a photo, I’ll have been to the restroom already and in place for that. My group at the lineup consists of all ladies… Jennifer, Valerie, Keibe, Hannah, PJ,  Lori, Sondi, and Jennifer Keyes whom I know from Palm Beach county. The other Jennifer lives or runs in Jupiter, Fl. I tell her about our group and where we meet each week for long runs. Lori and Sondi ran with me last year in the 1:50 pace group – they will look to stay with me for most of the miles then surge ahead later if they feel good. Hannah is someone that knows Pacer Kristen and was told by her that my 2 hr group would be a good fit. I give a brief talk on how we handle water stops, reminding everyone to tie shoes securely and that I will do most of the talking when the going gets tougher in their later miles. A guy dressed in orange named David joins in with us during Mile #1, he stayed for most of the race before scooting ahead in the last 2 miles.

We ran the first mile in 9:54, above the recommended 9:07 pace but the road heading out was crowded. Plenty of people disregard the pace per mile signs and feel if they are in a race, they need to be near the start point. It’s considerably different than the 1:50 group which I’ve done for the past three years. In those years we galloped to pace pretty quickly. Mile #2 had us 20 secs closer and by Mile #4 we were within 10 secs of perfect timing. I chatted with some of the frontrunners in my group, we are behind Pacer Callix and his 2 hour gang. The Galloway 2 hour group correctly starts behind us, almost catches up and then takes their walk break. We do well on the first “out” portion of the course to the turnaround. I remind the group to drink and eat their nutrition before they feel hungry or thirsty. I guess that my group has a dozen people, plus a few of the “followers.” Followers refers to the runners that won’t say they ran with a pace group – but they tail us the whole way until they drop off or zip ahead near the finish.

At halfway, we turn towards home and a few have peeled off. I told folks that we would invariably go through the turn area mile a teeny bit slower than we should, there are porta potties, two aid stations and a run over the halfway point timing mat. We leave there and hit Mile #7 about 12 seconds slow. Hannah is now up front running next to me. Her mom is in the race, too, following a slower pace team. Her dad was at the turnaround, they are Space Coast locals! Today’s run will be a personal best if she can finish in the 1:5x:xx zone with me. Our group is good as a gang of 6-7 in the 8,9, 10 mile areas. We pass a few people, I invite them to join and stay with us but they are already tapped on energy for today. Hannah says at mile 9 that it’s beginning to become a struggle. I fill her with only positive thoughts about how she’s already done all the hard work in training, the majority of the miles are already done, and how soon we will be celebrating at the finish with a group photo! She was so good in breaking through whatever she was experiencing. My chats with her got head nods and positive smiles and affirmations. This was us running down River Rd. one on one, going for her best time ever. So fun!

Well here’s a race day first. At around 10 miles, I reminded my group to use the nutrition they brought. Eat a gel, chew on the gummies, whatever, don’t think that taking anything any later in the race will help your performance. Hannah pulled out a sleeve of Clif Shot Blocks, the same thing I had in my pocket. She futzed with the packaging, and I offered to help her open it so she could focus on the running. She said she was ok and that it was open and ready now. Seeing her eat the gel block, I thought I’d use some of mine – the flavor I chose to carry today was a good one. I keep mine in non-ziplock plastic sandwich bags, so they are easy to reach in and grab. I put one in, chomped down and felt a crunch. Huh? They don’t crunch! I reach in and remove it from my mouth, along with a 35-year-old tooth crown stuck to the gummy. Really? Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 11.20.12 AMI pulled the tooth off the gel and store it in my Nathan 10k pouch. I’ll be glad I did that vs pay for a new one to be created. I tell my group what happened to many laughs. Seriously, I exclaim – “I will do anything to help you reach your goals, including shed body parts and other essentials!” This lightened the mood for ½ mile and made for a good bunch of laughs as we rolled forward with less than 5k to go.

At 11 miles, I told two of the runners, David and one of the gals to go faster if they felt good. At this point, the bridge at the base of the finish line area was well in sight, I used that to encourage them to really go for it, which they did. Hannah also soaked up these truths, she was a mere 19 minutes from the best time she has ever had, and although hurting some, I kept encouraging her to just run with me, not waste energy talking unless she wanted to, and keep rolling forward. I distracted her and the group back at the turnaround, asking them to “remind me at mile 11.5 to share with you my confession for the day.” That builds curiosity and Hannah was quick to remind me once we passed the 11 mile flag. I told them that our goal as a team was really to finish 30 seconds early – if they were with me and had started in my group, they were definitely going to get a sub-2 hour time if we finished together. I think that realization, with the tall condos and finish area in view, helped Hannah and two other gals significantly. They knew and believed they could!

The final 2 miles had all of us making sure we had good bib placement and smiles ready for the on-course photographers. I told my group the photographers usually sit on the long last straightaway. I also cued them in on the fact that spectators line the road and final finish area and these folks would be cheering for them. “Tingle time” for Ms. Hannah! She was right with me and at 12.5 miles I told her to run for the finish, she was so close, the last 800m was only two laps around a high school track. The rest of my small group did the same. Lori and another gal we had passed lined up next to me and sped up. I explained that I had to finish on time, but they were encouraged to surge if they had energy and felt good. For the final half mile, only I ran in with the 2 hour Galloway pace group leader. He said his group ‘kinda all ran with me, the run pace of a 2 hour run/walk group was pretty aggressive he explained. So I finished at 1:59:27, almost tripping over a rug they put done on the last curve to cover wet dirt. I took good pics with some in my group at the finish. Hannah was clearly the star of my group, she fought hard and really achieved what she hoped for a mere two hours before.space coast

It’s very rewarding to have been a part of that type of personal triumph. I know she was working hard and feeling discomfort. A few of the others met me at the finish line to thank me for the experience. I waited for a few of the girls I started with who finished in 2:02, 2:03 range.



Space Coast Half Marathon Pacing 2016

space-coast-2016-1I 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.space-coast-2016-2
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.

2014 Palm Beach Marathon

PB marathon 14-227 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.

PB marathon 14-4The 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…

pb marathon 14-1 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.PB marathon 14-3

Before the race most leave behind

5mi. It’s as if most of our local people aren’t running the full of half Palm Beach Marathon. They are shying away due to the heat or they have another event in the weeks to fllow. Gary and Dave are doing the half, most others were not concerned about the race. I hoped to go slower than a regular track workout – the rain during the warmup and near the end made sure of that. Paul was back calling the workout distances after getting a valve repaired in his heart two weeks ago in NY. So there were no lapses in conversation as we ran warmup and cooldown!

1 mile warmup jog

400m w/200m recovery
600m w/200m recovery
1000m w/200m recovery
500m w/200m recovery
500m w/200m recovery
1000m w/200m recovery
200m w/100m recovery
200m w/100m recovery
200m w/100m recovery
100m strider then 200m

1 mi cool down

Lifetime Miami Marathon 2014

Pacing for the 4:10 group…

Originally scheduled to be in the 4:00 group, two days before the race we receive notice that due to expected heat, we will start the pacing groups ten minutes slower. Ok, I did 4:10 last year, I’ll do it better this time!

skechers red ultra I used the Skechers Ultra shoe this race. I figured the upper portion of the shoe would be similar to the Go Run and Go Rides I have used all year. It’s that cushy “double stuffing” bottom I was anxious to feel. Worked well for me. I didn’t widen the lacing on my right foot near the toebox enough, so my sock folded over a wrinkle on itself on that foot, giving me some chafing inside. But clearly my fault, I should always dabble with the width and laces before just running a marathon, wouldn’t you think? Big thanks to Sole Runner in Miami for the great gear given to all pacers. Best singlet and shorts combo yet!


Guiseppe, the guest pacer from Italy! He did great in his role, including ordering plain spaghetti at our group dinner. He wanted something”safe” at the Cuban restaurant. Maybe he was right after all?

We had a few problems getting from the hotel to the race site.  Although the route was straightforward and we knew from last year to park under the arena, there was plenty of traffic and construction near the race start.  I was the lead car with three other cars full of pacers driving from the hotel in tow.  We parked under the arena and paid the $5.00 fee, which was easy.  We found an exit out of the basement parking lot that put us directly by the stairs in front of the arena.  Skye Bakker, Robin Platt and I used the porta pottys and went to the group photo meet spot.  We did the group picture once we figured out Marcela and some of the others were waiting at the very top of the stairs, we were at the bottom.  I went to Corral F before it were open for the runners with Danie, Andrea and Mark.  I didn’t have too many people clustered around me that planned on finishing at my pace.  I spoke to everyone about hydration, getting their shoes tied properly, how to drink on the run, etc.  I think many people have aspirations of a 2 hour half marathon or a four hour full marathon.  2:05 and 4:10 are not popular times people are chasing.  This year the starts were staggered by corral.  My group started approximately 20 minutes after the first group began their race.  It was warm, and the beginning mile is usually slow here in Miami due to the skinny exit ramp and hill we get to run.pacer group miami 2014

Starting out, I had many people around me wearing headphones, they weren’t really interacting with me.  I did have Mark Schachner’s son Matt, and girlfriend Tracy with me talking and keeping pace.  Our first mile was 10:15.  Not a worry, now the road was wider and the sun was beginning to rise in the east.  Miles number 2 and 3 were run our correct pace (9:30ish).  The first water stop is at mile 3.  There was a big crowd surging towards the right side of the road for their first drink. We did that well and I kept the group together. I knew we could keep the correct pace and chop off a few seconds each mile to get us back on the goal time.  I didn’t have to hurry to make up the 40 seconds, we could do it gradually on the narrow roads of Miami Beach. That worked well here at last year’s race.

The next 2 miles are on Miami Beach. We ran well at pace, making sure to stay aware of bumps in the road, uneven pavement and curbs and medians.  The water stops were always only on the right side.  This is a problem, especially for the half marathon with so many people on the course at once. I understand you can’t always have water on both sides of the street, but in many places on Miami Beach there is room on the right and left of the road.  We ran past the convention center and then on small side streets near the golf course.  These are miles 6 and 7.  Somewhere between mile six and mile seven we had made up the 40 second of deficit from the first mile.  It was during this period that Matt and Tracy fell off the pace.  I motioned to them thumbs up or thumbs down and Matt waved me to run ahead. Now our goal was to keep all half marathoners on pace until their turnaround spot. A tall male runner named Alejandro had stayed with us from the beginning. He never spoke to me, always using a “thumbs up” sign to let me know he was with us on the pace and successfully back with us after the mobbed water stops.  Alejandro was wearing a blue shirt but his most distinctive feature was that he resembled a certain “Lord and savior” popular among Christians. I wasn’t the only one to notice this, I saw others pointing him out and chatting. There were several other runners that I would take note of next to me or just behind me. They had blue bibs so they were in for the 13.1 distance. I spoke to some of them about reaching the half marathon finish line in 2:05. Again many had headphones and just smiled or waved when I spoke.


Once we were over the Venetian Causeway, the sun’s heat was noticeable on our backs.  The crowd in Miami among the buildings and elevated railway can be very loud. I made sure not to let this enthusiasm cause a surge in our pace. At mile markers 10 and 11 we were always within 5 to 10 seconds of goal time. The course heads south through the city, our group was now passing some of the tired half marathoners who were nearing their finish.  I made sure everyone in my group with a blue bib knew to stay left at the turn off for their finish line. And likewise, I kept the orange bib full marathoners with me to continue.

After the turn off but before the 13.1 half way mark I found two more runners that wanted to stay with me.  Eduardo and Alicea.  They both stayed with me for 3 to 4 miles. Running south towards Coconut Grove was easy at our pace because of there were less runners on the road and the water stops were more manageable. The temperature was rising, and now the sun was on our left side.  I tried to keep my group in the shade whenever possible.  I also encourage people to drink more than they thought. I explained that each cup filled was only 6oz, and you rarely got a full cup!  We ran south miles 14, 15,16 and saw Steve Chin heading north. He said he was at mile 21 and on pace. I went into neighborhoods with skinny streets and came out near mile 17 with less runners. At this point, no one was talking with me, I was telling stories and encouraging the group. It’s amazing how a few Paula Radcliffe and Alberto Salazar tales will entertain folks while they run!

Coconut Grove’s main drag, “Coco Walk” marks the place where runners are furthest from the finish line.  This happens between mile 18 and 19.  When I announced to my group that every step from here forward is taking them closer to the finish line, they are very happy!  I saw clouds and what looked like a rain storm coming from the east.  Two girls, Kristie and her friend join us before mile 20.  It starts to rain as we pass through the water station manned by the hammerheads triathlon group.  One of my male runners is a member of that group so he takes the pace sign and runs thru the people, enjoying his friend’s high fives.  I didn’t get his name but he was entertaining for the 2 or 3 miles he stayed with me.  He made sure to show me where LeBron James lived, we saw the police car stationed in front of his house signifying LeBron was home. Neat!

The following 3 miles were spent running in the rain. It was good to be out of the sun and the temps dropped a few degrees. I was now passing more people, trying to encourage them to run with me. The two girls were only 10 feet ahead of me but running the same pace, a man names Omar was slightly behind me and off to the side. I gained a few stragglers in the rain, then they would stop to drink water and not catch back up. Course turns right onto the tollway for Key Biscayne and Rickenbacker Causeway. We are approaching mile 23, those running on the other side of the road are almost at mile 24. One gal runs with me for ½ mile and walks. It’s now finished raining and I have only Omar next to me. He is laboring through the breathing, not in a medically bad way, in a “squeeze out the last drops of energy” way. I see Andrea M. running with Tracy on the other side of the road, then Jeff Gad running solo. We come around the covered water stop and head back to Biscayne Blvd. It is hot again, we have a breeze at our back and we are heading home. At mile 24 I see I am 3 seconds off perfect goal time of 2:09:30. Omar is silent in speech but huffing through these last miles. Another runner, Patrick, decides to stay with us after we pass him. Now we experience more fans cheering, clapping and we see half marathoners with medals on their necks walking on the sidewalk. We are doing the right pace and getting closer. We are three guys with the two girls now running 25 ft ahead of us. I hear Omar start to growl and muster up a yell…, I slow so he is right next to me and I ask if he’s ok. He was not cramping, it’s just tough going and he feels his legs slowing. Now he takes his earpiece out and he finally talks to me. He says,”I have to thank you so much, without you I would be way back there! I have followed you the whole way; I slowed for a few miles but caught back up.” I ask if it was his first marathon, he replies, ‘No, I did one a few years ago, that was 5 hours. Today with you I will have a great time!” I tell him what I tell everyone else – that once he gets to the finish, that time will be next to his name forever, so lean into the challenge now and stay with me. Another girl which we pass, Patricia, hops in with us for the last bit. We pass mile 25 right on time. A quick drink of water then I tell my three runners that we only have 5 laps around a high school track left. Five laps at nine and a half minute mile pace – they could do that ANY Tuesday morning I remind them! Omar moans loudly again but he is with us. Patricia fades a bit but stays close. We run towards the buildings and the little metal drawbridge.

miami marathon 2014-1

Poached photo shows Omar (blue shirt) Patricia and Patrick as we near the final 1/2 mile of the course in Miami.

There is less than half of a mile to go. I tell Omar that if he has energy left, he doesn’t have to stay with me, he can run ahead! He makes it up the bridge with some more encouragement and then paces faster down the hill. Patrick tries to follow him. Patricia is behind me but close. We make a right turn, run a quarter mile then a left turn. This is the finish chute, the two guys are ahead of me and they’re definitely not going to walk. I look at my watch and I have 20 seconds to finish at perfect time, but I am too far away for that. Rather than sprint and pass Omar and Patrick, I stay right behind them. Done in 4:09:43. I think hanging with Omar on the bridge and talking when he struggled took a few seconds off, but TOTALLY WORTH IT!

At the finish, I find the other pacers talking, I put my sign on the pile they were making and I spoke with Skye about his first day out pacing. He is a great runner, he really enjoyed it. Omar found me before I could get a medal and gave me a hug and a big thanks. I thought I had a thin group at the 4:10 pace. I was so looking forward to running with a huge group at 4:00, but the last 3 miles with a few determined runners made it a great day for me.

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