Monday, February 19, 2007

Miami Marathon 101

When you think of Miami, what comes to mind? Palm trees swaying in the breeze? Beautiful girls in bikinis, rollerblading along Ocean Drive? Or maybe, handsome guys showing off their abs while playing volleyball on the beach? Probably not 11,000 runners standing in front of the American Airlines Arena, in a torrential downpour at 6am! Unbelievable as it would seem, this was the scene at the starting line of the ING Miami Marathon and Half this year!

Out of 100 marathons, I have never started in a DELUGE before! A pre-dawn downpour at 5:30am is not a great invitation to head out for a marathon. After what started as a beautiful weekend, who would have thought of rain?
If I hadn't paid the late registration fee of $120 at the expo the day before, I probably would have gone back upstairs when I saw the weather. Fortunately, I was staying at the Hyatt Regency, just a few blocks from the starting line. My plan was to leave the hotel as late as possible, donned in my garbage bag courtesy of the hotel, sprint to the start and avoid standing around any getting any more soaked than necessary. Good idea, however my first step was into a puddle over my ankle!

After my last rainy marathon experience, my biggest concerns were not with running but with my hair and my MP3 player! When an unexpected shower came through in the Outer Banks Marathon--I had hair mousse drip into my eyes which was EXTREMELY painful-if not blinding, to say the least and my MP3 player had gotten some moisture in it. The next day it stopped working and had to be replaced.
In this case the hair was soaked in a matter of minutes-the rain was coming down so hard you might as well have been standing in a shower. I was able to put the new MP3 player in a plastic bag I just happened to have in my fanny pack. It always helps to be prepared!

This was actually my second attempt at the Miami Marathon. When I ran last year I had been sick the week before. About 6 miles into the race I realized I wasn’t really up to 26.2 miles that day and debated with myself for the next 7 miles as to whether or not to drop out. Right before the split for the half and the full marathon-I saw my friend, Mark, a 50 State Club Finisher and LVTC member. I explained to him how I felt, and he convinced me that dropping out at the halfway point wouldn’t be the worst thing, after all I had another marathon in a “new” state, Louisiana, planned for the following week. “New” meaning a state I needed to run for my 50 state marathon quest- I already had Florida at least 5 times.
This year was not much different than last-about 10 miles into the race I realized it wasn’t going to be my day. Maybe it was the rain, the extremely early start, (keep in mind a 6am starting time in Miami is really more like 3am to me, coming from Pacific Time), lack of sleep or just general fatigue.

I was feeling sorry for myself and starting to fall apart, when I saw another 50 State Club member, Dan. We spoke and I recounted the situation from last year about dropping down to the half—he stopped me, told me that I looked fine and shouldn’t even be thinking about quitting. That’s all I needed to hear. When the turnoff for the half came up I barely glanced at it—the demons from last year would not get me this time.

At this point, once the half marathoners finish-they’re about 3 to 1, the field thins out quite a bit but not so much that you don't have a few people near you throughout the rest of the race.

I did continue, however it was all downhill from there on, except the course that is! With the exception of a couple bridges, it's mostly flat and very scenic. In fact you would probably find the scenery very familiar. Many movies and television shows have been filmed on those very streets and causeways from South Beach to Coconut Grove and Downtown.

As for spectators, there were some downtown not far from the finish line. I’d say they were mostly family and friends, out to support their runner. Later into the race, as we passed through the residential area in Coconut Grove, I saw quite a few locals outside of their homes. Even some with orange slices and water hoses!

With a bad knee, cramping hamstring and a new pain in my right heel; somehow I just willed myself to finish. It was not pretty! After running my last 3 marathons fairly well, it was very disheartening to go back to a struggle.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I saw one of my friends from the LVM21 Club-that’s the running club formed through the Las Vegas Marathon message board. Donna had come from Canada to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon. “Wow, she must have been flying!” I thought to myself when I saw her standing there already showered and dressed. Turned out she had a terrible blister, no doubt from the rain, and had dropped out at the half. I think she is going to try again at the St. George Marathon.

Behind her I saw my father, stepsister and niece waiting for me. They had been standing at the finish line for hours. It was their first time at a marathon and I’m sure they’d seen things they never could have imagined!

All in all, this is a beautiful race. They do a superior job of organization-there are plenty of aid stations, water, gel and port-a-potties along the course. Mile markers and clocks were in their proper places and finish line food was plentiful.

Also, I was surprised at how many international runners came from South America and the Caribbean. A Venezuelan man asked me if I was running the "21k" and a saw a group at the airport waiting for a flight to the Bahamas in their race shirts (very nice tech shirts) and their famous “spinning palm tree” medals.
If I can, I would love to run this race next year AND plan a sail off on a cruise afterward.
Running past the sight of 20 cruise ships with their lights twinkling in the predawn, darkness could only be surpassed by boarding one of them in the afternoon and sailing off for a little R&R!

If all this sounds good, you’re in luck! Join fellow runners on a Post-Miami Marathon cruise planned for next year! We’ll sail Sunday, January 27, 2008 from Miami on NCL’s Norwegian Jewel for 5 days to Cozumel and Grand Cayman.
For more details, send me an e-mail: or check out this link to the LVM21 Club’s website:

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