I lined up for the race at 6:00 am still amazed that I had made it at all. I can’t count the number of times I had decided to abandon the idea. Friday when I learned there was no expo to register, Saturday when my foot injury throbbed, and numerous times on Sunday. But I was there, packed into the crowded corral looking over the ocean, watching the sun rise and waiting for the starting horn. I continued to listen The Jungle hearing the woes of the poor Lithuanian immigrants and the horrors of Chicago’s late 19th century meat packing business. Not quite the pick-me-up that you seek when starting a half marathon.
The horn went off at sun rise and a 5000 legs began the 13.1 mile march that would take us in a mostly square path over two bridges, passed cruise ships, through down town Miami, before winding our way back to the start on South Beach.
My plan was to stay with the 1:40 pace group and try to kick it in the last few miles. At that point, a sub-1:40 would be a nice accomplishment, not a PR but not bad for an untrained race. It took me 2 miles to catch up to the pace group and I was only able to keep up with them for about a mile. The heat, humidity, and steep hill on the bridge conspired to slow me down. Of course, the fact that I hadn’t done a run of more than 7 miles in the 5 months since the marathon did not help with my endurance. Four miles in, I revised my goal to 1:44.
While I learned of the way Jurgis and his family were swindled out of their life savings by buying a house they would never be able to afford, I passed a gigantic cruise ship docked in a Miami harbor. And as I heard of their struggles to make enough money just to survive, I saw pennies, nickels, dimes and even a dollar bill on the side of the road. If I didn’t think that stopping would have ruined me for the entire race, I would have stopped and picked up the money which would have amounted to about $2.
Along the path there were only a few spectators. The heat, humidity and early morning start time likely kept people away. Also, the race was run through some rather desolate areas of the city which weren’t conducive for attracting observers. For a joggler, this is particularly disappointing. I did appreciate the half dozen bands that were peppered along the course and the cheerleading groups at mile 4 and 7. The volunteers at the water stops were also enthusiastic.
The toughest part of the course was the section between miles 6 and 9. It took us along I195 over the long bridge back to South Beach. Unfortunately, it began with a steep hill coupled with a stiff headwind. The sun had risen just over the horizon and was at such an angle that I had to look down to avoid being blinded. Since I forgot my sunglasses, this made for particularly challenging joggling.
At mile 7, a 14 year old wearing a light blue yarmulke and Converse tennis shoes passed me. This was a little annoying and briefly inspired me to pick up the pace. I never like to lose to the sub-16 year old set. However, this kid was pretty strong and I never did catch up to him. When the 1:50 pace group passed me at mile 9, I felt deflated. I stayed with them as long as I could but it didn’t last. I just haven’t learned to run with pacers.
Half marathons are always painful and this one was no exception. The primary pain was the PF in my left foot. Every time it met the ground it felt like someone was slamming a hammer right into my heel. I had to run land on the front of my foot just to ease the pain. After the first couple miles the pain was still there but it was easier to ignore. In mile 5 I felt a stinging pain where my iPhone pouch met my skin. I knew this would probably happen but didn’t do anything to offset the chaffing effect. I adjusted it a bit while going through the water stops to stop the stinging however, I ended up with a large patch of sore red skin. I really need a new pouch.
The race finished along the beach trail. It was great to run along the winding trail lined with palm trees, sand and an enthusiastic crowd. I felt the typical surge of end-of-the-race energy and passed a half dozen people on my way to the finish. A bean bag tossed over the finish banner caught on the other side and I was done. A dropless effort! A slow effort though at 1:52:30, my slowest ever.
I didn’t mind much though as I was happy to be finished. I took my medal (which had a very cool design) and ate up some finish food which included apples, bananas, bagels and chocolate chip cookies. I liked the cookies and would have had more but I felt a bit sick. I walked around the finish area dazed, in pain, and depressed by the awful things that had befallen Jurgis and his rapidly crumbling family.
After getting my gear and changing my shirt, I made my way to the beer garden and downed a couple of Michelob Ultra drafts. The beer was cold and quenched my thirst in a way that the two bottles of water I downed at the finish line didn’t. I drank my beer, looked at the crowd of finishers, listened to the local classic rock band play hits from the 60′s, and basked in the Florida sun. I felt exhausted but elated. The feeling of finishing a long, tough race is incredible.
When the beer was gone, I hobbled back to my car hampered by soreness in my leg muscles and sever pain in both heels. I longed for the day when I’m not troubled by PF. I changed out of the rest of my wet clothes and made the long drive back home satisfied at my effort and hopeful of better results in the future.