One aspect of blogging that I haven’t shared much with y’all is the connections I’ve made by looking for other blogs similar to mine. When I first started writing, I stumbled upon Dan’s blog about running a half in all 50 states (turns out my goal is not so unique after all 😉 ) and did some reading. After a few visits I realized we both ran in the 2010 ING Miami Half marathon! I thought that was pretty cool so I left a comment and we’ve started sending support back and forth on each other’s blogs. (I’m still working on convincing him to run the St. Jude Memphis Half for his TN race – help me out!)
Dan was also kind enough to agree to let me share his story with you about 2010 Miami – and you can really see that no two people experience a race in the same way!
Read my re-cap here:
2010 ING Miami Half-Marathon – as remembered by Dan, of Dan’s Marathon.
Very much like Jessica, I didn’t have a blog or my lofty 50-states goal before signing up for the 2010 ING Miami Half Marathon. At the time, running for me had only recently become a serious time commitment, something that I genuinely enjoyed beyond keeping me fit. I found out that my cousin, who is about four years younger than me, had also taken up running long distances and had challenged herself to running her first half marathon on the sunny shores of Miami. Since my grandmother has owned a condo on Brickell Avenue since the 70’s, I decided to sign up. Free lodging, a sunny escape from Chicago’s brutal winter and a chance to run with family? How could this possibly suck?
As of this writing, I have run twenty-five half marathons, and I can honestly say that not a single one of them truly, genuinely “sucked.” No matter how tough the experience, there’s always a sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line and that alone is worth its weight in blood, sweat and tears. In fact, one might say that the tougher it was, the more worthwhile and memorable. The struggle to finish in those last miles is one that is only overcome through personal effort and perseverance. No one can help you. They can offer kind words or maybe a cup of water, but since it’s up to you to move one foot in front of the other, the accomplishment and rewards were yours to earn and yours to keep forever.
But I didn’t have that experience behind me when I toed the line at my first Miami Half Marathon. I had three Chicago halfs to my name and was just four months away from finishing my first marathon. They were all in relatively cool temperatures and with average humidity. I assumed that Miami in January would be similar, so I didn’t expect a large change. I was also a bit reckless with my nutrition. I ate far too much pasta the day before and went out to lunch with a friend at a Mediterranean restaurant, where I dabbled liberally in their fusion menu.
Because of that, my stomach complained all weekend leading up to the race. I wasn’t too concerned about it until race morning, when I woke up around 3 AM and stepped outside.
I felt like I could squeeze the water out of the air. The humidity was crazy and dew points were very high. The temperature read 73, but it certainly felt much warmer and there was no breeze to dispel the heavy warmth. I took a somewhat defeatist attitude toward it (what can you do about the weather?) but made my way to the start with a hint of optimism.
By the time we reached the top of the MacArthur Causeway, which is about a mile into the race, I was already sweating bullets. The heat had made its way into my clothes and was leeching out my energy extremely quickly. I tried to distract myself from the struggle by admiring the beautiful scenery that surrounds runners in those first miles. There were resplendent cruise ships anchored at sea, various shades of blue emerging from the horizon, thousands of colorful heads bobbing up and down the thin strip of land that connects Miami to Miami Beach, palm trees lining the median, beautiful, crystalline condos spiking out of the ground.
But mind tricks would only work for long. What I didn’t know at the time was that I had basically started the race on empty. My poor attention to nutrition had dehydrated me over the past two days, making every step feel like I was dragging cinderblocks behind me. I normally measure my exertion levels by how fast I’m breathing and I was on my last gear by mile 5. As I ran down the iconic Ocean Drive, I came to an awful realization. Just because I had done three of these before, didn’t mean I could forever coast through them. This was hard. Running 13.1 miles was not easy, and every second I shuffled onward was a harsh reminder of it.
As the course left the bright restaurants of Miami Beach and entered a more residential area, I began thanking myself for having brought a water bottle to the race. At every water station, I would drink a cup and pour a second one into my bottle, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to wait another mile for a swig. Very few races have water stations at every mile (they’re typically spaced out every 1.5 to 2), but I was a huge fan of the frequency, mostly because it was keeping me alive.
Around mile 7, the race turns around and heads back to Miami on the Venetian Causeway. This almost straight line was interminable. I was no longer consistently running and was taking longer and longer walking breaks. I knew my family would be at the ING Cheer Zone at mile 11. I had to make it at least that far and without looking like a reanimated corpse. Once back on the mainland, spectators were five people deep, orange balloons and signs exploding throughout the crowds in large numbers. My family had bought a large Tweety Bird balloon and as soon as I saw it, I picked up my pace a little, like someone in a terrible mood smiling just for the cameras. Once past the roars of supportive fans, my pace returned to a slow trudge. Unlike RUNMEM’s author, I couldn’t keep those energy levels until the finish.
The last two miles are in the city of Miami, but there are far fewer spectators. With few people to push me onward, I couldn’t find any energy to speed up. I saw my pace go up with every street block, counting up from 8:30 to 8:40. By the last mile I was flirting with a 9:00 overall pace. Never had I been so glad to see the finish line. It seemed like hours passed between crossing the 13th mile marker and reaching the finish line, but I somehow made it. I crossed in 1:57:09. It was over. It was my slowest half, but it was over. I finished on sheer force of will. What little energy I had in my system had gotten sweat out by mile 5, leaving only a primitive drive to move forward as my only engine.
It was about a year later, when I ran it again that I realized how important it was to eat right. As I started the race, I had completed a more regulated regimen of balanced eating, complete with a carboloading session that involved largely simple and safe foods. As a result, I knocked off 16 minutes from my previous time and finished strong with my head held high. And even while I crawled onwards in 2010, I couldn’t help but enjoy how beautiful the course was and how supportive the volunteers and spectators were. It’s a truly electrifying race in a beautiful city, which is why it makes my list of all-time favorites.