2011 Tropical 5K + ING Miami Marathon

Well, I did it and I finished smiling! My official time for the 3.1 miles was 35:44. Thank you again for all of the sweet, encouraging words!

Last Saturday couldn't have been more perfect for a race! It was about 50-degrees at the start. The skies were clear and there was a light breeze. Since there weren't any clouds, the sun was quite bright as it rose up over the Beach, so it served as a reminder that I still need to replace my sunglasses that broke last year.

Always smiling for the camera!

The Tropical 5K course took me from the Miami Children's Museum on Watson Island, over the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach, and finished at South Pointe Park. The early parts of the ING Miami Marathon follow the same route, so it was familiar territory.

Now, medals at 5K's are usually reserved for the folks that actually place in the Top 3. The Tropical 5K is nice in that everyone gets a sweet "spinning" medal" for completing the race. I can't complain about that!

After the race, Kevin and I walked over to Joe's Stone Crab Take-Away for breakfast. We both had the Crispy Corn Flake French Toast, which was sooo good! We then headed to the convention center so that Kev could pick up his race packet at the Expo. Getting there right when it opened proved to be perfect timing! In years past, we've learned that the narrow aisles between booths can get quite cramped and crowded later in the day.

My favorite athlete!

At the Expo, we ran into one of my favorite people (and lurker commenter on this blog), my dear friend Eddie. We trained together for our very first marathon and crossed the finish line within a few seconds of each other. Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" was blaring in the background. I will never forget that day!

With a 4:00am wake up time for Sunday, Kev and I had an early dinner (spaghetti, of course!) and went to bed at a decent time. The race was scheduled to start at 6:15am, so we left the house at a little after 5:00am. It was clear and cool out, but not as much as the day before. Still, the conditions were better than anything we'd ever raced in down here and I had a feeling they were perfect for a great marathon.

After some warm-up exercises and a quick lap down Biscayne Boulevard, Kevin was ready to head to his corral. I knew that he hoped to be near the halfway point by 1 hr 50 min, and was shooting to finish the whole thing within 3 hrs 40 min. I kissed him good luck and headed toward the American Airlines Arena, where the race starts. As soon as the flare gun fired, I started the chronometer on my watch, and watched as the 21,000 runners (for the full + half marathon), inched their way toward the start.

From the Triple A, there's really only a couple of places along the course to see your runner if you're on foot (especially if he or she is fast): the point where the full and half routes split and the finish. With close to two hours to kill, I booked it to my super-secret hangout spot: the Miami Intercontinental Hotel. (Shhh. Don't tell anyone!) It has a Starbucks and the swankiest public bathroom in all of Downtown Miami. The trick is to get there early. By the time I was seated comfortably on a couch in the lobby, sipping chai and munching on bits of Cinnamon Chip scone, there were more than 40 people in line for coffee. Suckers!

I kept checking my watch and decided to give up my comfy spot when the timer hit 1:15. I knew it wouldn't take long to walk the handful of blocks to the halfway point, but I was anxious and needed to move. I grabbed an orange cowbell at one of the ING tents and went on my way.

When I got to the rendezvous spot, the chronometer read about 1:30. Kev wasn't due until around 1:50, but I knew it could be a little later than that, depending on how close his corral was to the start line when the race got underway. I pulled out the Flip Cam and practiced filming folks as they passed while I waited. At the 1:40 mark, I decided to start paying closer attention, keeping an eye out for Kev's gray singlet and white visor. Good thing I did, too, because right at 1:44 (at least SIX MINUTES ahead of pace) my husband came striding down the course. I was so excited, I could barely think of what to say. "I love you, babe!" and "Keep going!" are what came out. (Ha, ha. As if he was going to stop!)

I saw him for all of 30 seconds, maybe. He looked great, but I knew it was still early. I wondered if he hadn't started out too fast. He looked really strong, though. I whispered a prayer for him and trusted that he'd be fine.

The timer read 1:46. There was more than an hour and a half until Kev was due at the finish. I looked around me and was shocked at the number of people just standing there, waiting for their loved one to pass by. I'm talking crowds, just standing and staring in silence... not clapping, cheering, bell ringing, high fiving, you-naming-it to the athletes as they passed, sometimes agonizingly slowly. Knowing what it's like to be a runner nearing Mile 13 of 26.2, I can tell you just how motivating it is to hear someone calling out your name from the sidelines. So, that's exactly what I did.

Like a lot of races these days, the ING series gives runners the option of having their first name printed on their race bib. Well, I rang my little cowbell non-stop and shouted out every name that I could possibly read: "Go Janet! You've GOT this thing!" "Come on, Bob! You're looking STRONG!" The people standing around me and across the street gave me funny looks and giggled, but I kept on... for more than an hour. Little 'ole me turned into the one-woman cheer squad for the corner of Flagler and 2nd Avenue. So ridiculous! The thumbs-up, thank you's and smiles from a lot of the racers reassured me that it made a difference, though.

{I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're going to go through the trouble of standing along a race route at the crack of dawn, make some noise for the folks on the course. It's OK to encourage other runners at a race. You're not being disloyal to your marathoner. Hopefully, someone somewhere down the road is cheering for your guy or girl, too! Alright, rant over.}

The walk back to the viewing area for the final stretch of the course took a little longer than it had earlier in the day. The bleachers were full and there were folks standing two and three deep against the barricades. Uh-oh. I looked for a spot that I might be able to squirm my way into, since people were leaving as their runners came in. I positioned myself behind two women leaning on a barricade, stood up on my toes, and looked as far as I could down the course for Kevin's white visor. I glanced at the timer on my watch. It read 3:36. Moments later I saw Kev coming down the stretch. "Oh my goodness, he's gonna PR," was all I could think. I let the ladies know my husband was coming and they made a space for me along the fence. My eyes welled up with tears and we all shouted his name, "Go Keviiiiin!" He waved as he passed, keeping a steady pace.

When he exited the chute, we shared a long, teary hug. I knew that this was his day. Everything finally came together so that he could run to his maximum potential. Kevin finished in 3 hours 37 minutes, running an average pace of 8:18 minute/mile. That's ELEVEN MINUTES faster than his previous best at the 2006 San Diego Marathon.

I was bursting with happiness, excitement and relief for him. Heck, PR's are awesome! But this was different. This was Kevin's first full marathon in two years. He'd missed the last three races he trained for due to illness. Running his best time ever was the ultimate way of marking his comeback. It was the long awaited payoff after a series of disappointing turns. He worked SO hard for this!

I love this guy!

Coach Ward worked with Kev during his training this season.

After walking around for a few minutes, we found a shady spot in the grass and sat down so Kev could rest and take in exactly what he'd just done. Surprisingly, he said he physically felt better than he ever had after a marathon. I wonder if the cool weather had some part in that.

Evel Knievel bike helmet + funky Asics... That's my Eddie!

On the walk back to the car, we ran into Eddie, who was biking around the course after working a water station in Coconut Grove. We stopped for a moment along a part of the course just before the final turn toward the finish line. It was a pretty lonely stretch, so we decided to give a little encouragement to the runners as they passed. I told Kev about my method of calling out people's names and within moments, we were shouting and clapping together. How cool is that? After running more than 26 miles for over three-and-a-half hours, Kevin still had the energy and compassion to cheer others on. That just puts a big fat smile on my face!

So, there you have it. Our exciting, race-filled weekend! I've decided to get a head start on next fall's marathon training season by joining a spring half marathon training program. I think it'll be a great way to get back in running shape. Next Saturday is our first training run!!! :o)



  1. I might be completely silly and under the influence of multiple cold drugs, but I seriously got ready eyed reading about your clapping corner! I can't think of a better way to spend your time waiting than cheering on so many strangers!!! I have a good friend who went to the IronMan last year to do something similar - shed been many times to cheer on her Dad, but this time she just went to HI to watch and cheer. :)

  2. You and you're husband are seriously awesome! This really motivates me to keep running and preparing for my first ever 5k.

    I love that you cheered on those other runners and it had to mean the world to them. Congratulations to your hubby on his PR!

  3. Congrats to both of you on finishing and a big thumbs up for a PR! That's really awesome of you to cheer others on too, I love when bystanders do that.

  4. Congratulations to you and Kevin! I've just started running, and both of you are very inspiring. :)

  5. Thanks Marissa! :)

    And I too was handing out water, picking up trash, etc volunteering at Mile 20 but still shouting out people's names as they passed. Then I positioned myself just ahead of the finish line, right after the curve and shouted and shouted and shouted. I was shouting people's names (and flirting too) for 6 hours!! The smiles you get are well worth it.

  6. You guys are awesome!! Congratulations to you and Kevin for having such great races! My first year in Baltimore, the city's marathon route went down our street past our house, so a bunch of folks on our block pulled out patio chairs, played music, and spent the day cheering people on - it was such fun and I think the runners really appreciated it. I'm so impressed you started your own cheering section, and really glad those women let you through to cheer Kevin to the finish!

  7. Congrats to both of you! And good for you for running the one woman cheering squad - I can't believe the other people weren't cheering! I've only witnessed the Columbus & Chicago marathons and can attest to the noise level and excitement, especially in Chicago! You probably provided so many people with much needed encouragement and cheer :)

    p.s. I have a hard time commenting on your blog because I don't use Blogger or Wordpress. I created a WP page to direct people to my actual site, so I can comment as that...but it is kind of a pain :) I suggest looking into adding "Name/URL" as an option!

  8. amazing job to you both!
    I seriously tear up in these moments of accomplishment. what a cheerleader! Inspiring.

  9. Wow, this really really got me all teary eyed at work. So wonderful.

  10. How am I just reading this!? I was definitely tearing up as you and the other women cheered Kevin to the finish line. :) Also, I think it's awesome that you were cheering on total strangers, such a small thing that makes such a difference sometimes. :) Congrats to you and Kevin!

  11. I am such a dork. I totally welled up watching him finish. Ha. Great job Kev, you nailed it. And I agree on the cheering. I go nuts for the runners when J does his solo marathons. I don't even care what people think of me anymore. I almost lost my voice at Marine Corps a few years back. :)

  12. I never ever comment on blogs but I just had to let you know that this post made me cry - as a runner I am always so grateful when someone watching claps or rings a bell or whatever it is. It is so encouraging so THANK YOU on behalf of all the people that you cheered on that day :)


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