Sunday, 29 January 2012

Reflecting on the Miami Marathon

As I type this post, the 10th ING Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon is taking place. This was a race I participated in last year and it was my 5th marathon I had ran, the first one in the United States. Today the conditions for the race are not very good. It was about 20C and raining for the 6:15 am start. The start time is so early, but I guess it has to be. If you are going to run a marathon in 5 or 6 hours, it will be pretty hot when you cross the finish line.

I remember it being much cooler as I left my hostel last year at around 4:30 am, walking to the shuttle bus that was going to take me to the start line at the American Airlines Arena. It was probably around 13C at the time and the bars were clearing out. During the walk, I was offered cocaine a couple of times, for a good price apparently. I guess that's to be expected in South Beach, as that was a common offer throughout the weekend.

As I got off the bus and headed towards the start line, there was a sense of of excitement and energy not normally associated with 5:30 in the morning. 21,000 people ready to run together, some seeing the other runners as their opponents, but most racing against themselves looking to accomplish a personal best time or complete their first marathon or half-marathon. I was in Start Corral C. When I registered for the race I told the organizers I planned to finish the race within 3 hours and 30 minutes, so this placed me pretty close to the start line. There were so many corrals for this run. The largest start corral letter I saw on a participant's bib was O, so organizers must have really wanted participants who have similar speeds to stay together and not get in the way of faster runners. At about 6, Deborah Cox sang the Spar Spangled Banner. That was kind of cool.

At 6:15 the sun had not yet risen but the the race had begun. Like all races, the start was crazy as runners were zig-zagging between each other trying to get some space. After 1 1/2 miles you reach the MacArthur Causeway, where the the cruise company Carnival which are docks their ships. Since it is still dark outside, the ships are all lit up and this makes for quite a scene early in the race.

At the 3 1/2 mile mark, you reach Miami Beach and after another mile you are going north on Ocean Drive, the best part of the race if you're fast enough as this is where you get a picturesque view of the sun rising on the beach. Unfortunately, today's runners won't get to enjoy such an experience. After about an hour of running, Miami Beach was behind me and I was heading back to Miami, a two and a half mile run that requires you to cross bridges and pass smaller islands like Biscayne Island. Passing the residences on these islands were pretty cool, as the homes are quite beautiful, and docked in some homeowners backyards are some pretty awesome boats.

After 10 1/2 miles, you are back on the mainland of Miami, and there is a large group of spectators cheeing you on (an official cheering zone is set up there after all). As you approach the 13 mile mark, again there is a large group of spectators cheering as the half marathoners are finishing their run. That space that you wanted when the race started, well now you have it as a majority of the runners are now off the course. At about the 14 or 15 mile mark, you again enter the residential areas, and the crowds are quite sparse, but what do expect for 8am on a Sunday.

At mile 22 you reach the Rickenbacker Causeway and get some great views of the city in the distance, which is great because it is usually at this point of the marathon that I begin to tire and slow down significantly. I remember the last couple of miles being particularly brutal physically because a portion is run on solid concrete. Mentally, there is this complete mindfuck near the end of the race where you see a massive arching bridge in the distance and are under the belief that you will have to climb it in order to finish. Luckily you don't.

You end up finishing the race at Bayfront park where your name is announced as you cross the finish line. I ended up running it in 3:24:01, a personal best at the time. The medal that you get for completing the run was pretty cool, a double spinner, the only race that gives out a medal of that kind apparently. You then head towards the post race party, which may have been the best one I have been to. There was so much food to eat, from fruit cups, cookies, bagels, fresh fruit rice and beans and protein shakes. The best part was the free beer though. Brooklyn Brewery was a sponsor and had a tent set up where you could have all the beer you could drink. I think I threw back three of four beers before I decided to head back to my hostel and get some much needed rest. When I got back to my hostel, I ran into another runner who had finished in 14th place with an incredible time of 2:41.

The Miami Marathon was a great experience and I hope to do it again some day. Defintely a great getaway for the end of January for us Canadians. Below is a picture of me after the race and also a video of the course.

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