Marathon Redux – Miami 2008

The unfathomable passage of time always takes me by surprise. Somehow my age now starts with a six, this year will mark my 40th wedding anniversary, I have two grandchildren with another due in a month, and it had been more than 21 years since the last time I ran a marathon. This one came about innocently enough with the suggestion back in September, by a couple of people that I coach, that instead of just writing workouts for them, why didn’t I train with them for Boston. There was one minor problem with that idea. If I were going to run Boston I would need to qualify. It didn’t seem that there was any way they would take my time from the last Boston Marathon I ran back in 1983 or even the last marathon I ran, which was 1986.

With all this starting in September and Boston seven months away the plan was to find a warm-weather marathon in January to use for a qualifier. This would give me enough time to get ready to qualify, take an easy week, which would then give me three months to train for Boston. I also needed to find a marathon that would provide a nice vacation opportunity after the race (it’s always important to keep your support person happy). The first place I looked was Disney, but it was already full. Miami was the second choice and in retrospect I’m glad Disney was full. Miami was great. From there we would go to Key West and spend three days in nice, warm, southern-Florida weather.

Right from the start we were very impressed with the organization of the race. The check-in at the Miami Convention Center could not have been any smoother or the people any friendlier. Race morning was the same way. Start time was 6:15AM. We were at a hotel about four blocks from the start and one block from the finish. At about 5:20 I left the hotel and moseyed my way toward the starting line, eating my Powerbar, a banana and drinking a Gatorade in the pre-dawn darkness. There were portable toilets everywhere. At about 6AM I entered my corral and immediately bumped into Mary Veltre. We chatted until about two minutes before the start when she really put her game face on, stepped a few steps away and got ready to run. Once the gun went off I never saw her again, she was GONE!

It was a little over two minutes to get to the start line. By then we were running pretty free and easy. The temperature was 66 degrees with a nice cloud cover. It stayed that way the whole time I was running: perfect marathon weather for Miami. My plan was to run very comfortably for at least the first 20 miles, then sometime after that, if there was anything in the tank, pick up the pace. Following that plan, every time I felt myself pushing even a little bit I pulled back on the effort. My splits were nicely under the qualifying time I needed so there was no need to push. They had twenty-two water stops with water and Gatorade. Some of the stops also had energy gel packets. The crews at the water stops were outstanding. Since I was a little worried about the humidity I probably made use of twenty of the twenty-two water stops.

The toughest part of the course for me was from mile 22-24, where, as you’re heading back toward the finish, they send you out a mile on a causeway, then you do a u-turn and head back toward the mainland. It’s basically two miles that seem to go nowhere. Once you’re off the causeway and hit the 24-mile mark, the tough mental stretch is over and you know you’re almost home.

My qualifying time for Boston was 4:00, so my finishing time of 3:41:02 was a nice surprise. In looking at my mile splits the next day I knew I had run a smart race. In the first thirteen miles there were only three splits under 8:20 per mile pace. In the second thirteen miles there were ten splits under 8:20 and my splits from mile twenty-four to mile twenty-six were 7:45 and 7:41. All that added up to a negative-split of 3:34.

We didn’t stay for the post-race festivities. Vince and Mary said they were really great. Instead we headed out for Margaritaville to see if we could find Jimmy Buffett.

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