QUESTION: Who goes to Miami in the dead of January hoping for cold weather?
ANSWER: A Canadian Marathoner!
My number one concern in preparing to run the Miami Marathon had nothing to do with the course or how ready I was to head out on a 42.2 km. (or…as most of the mileage markers said…26 mile) race last January.
It was all to do with the weather. I kept thinking of the excruciatingly hot days in Ottawa last Summer during Marathon weekend…unseasonably warm temperatures at the Boston Marathon…training runs here in Toronto during August 2016 when we ran at 5:30am simply to beat the heat. What if Miami delivers a sunny, warm, ‘not a cloud in the sky’ day for January 29?
The good news is that it was rainy, windy, and cold…as in…52 degrees Fahrenheit cold when 23,000 runners celebrated the 15th running of the Miami Marathon by crossing the Start Line at 6:00am. There was no gorgeous sunrise. It was dark, gray and miserable. In other words, it was perfect!
We arrived on Friday morning before race day and immediately got settled into our hotel which was not more than one hundred metres from the Start/Finish Line. Location…location…location. There’s nothing better than being able to walk out of your hotel and be in your corral in less than five minutes except…well…being able to hobble back to your hotel some four hours later and be just as close. I have no hesitation in admitting that it’s one of the things I put as top priority when I run. Yes…I can probably save a few dollars by staying further out but, in the end, you just can’t put a price on the comfort and ease of access to the Start/Finish area.
The Race Expo was average. It reminded me a bit of GoodLife or ScotiaBank except that it was in the Florida Marlins Baseball Stadium Upper Concourse. Shuttles were free…the ride was relatively short, and I was done by late afternoon.
Saturday was ‘rest’ day and I spent it checking out the Start/Finish area…agreeing where to meet my wife after the race. She had planned to race the Half but, following an injury several months earlier, felt that she just wasn’t ready. To say that was frustrating for her would be an understatement! I have a feeling that this one falls into the ‘unfinished business’ category and we’ll be back next January to run the Half together.
Everyone has ‘been there’ and knows what I mean when I say that Saturday night was a really short night. The race started at 6:00am on Sunday in front of the American Airlines Arena right on the waterfront which meant that race officials wanted you in your corrals by 5:15am for Opening Ceremonies at 5:45am. Of course…that all means that you’re having your pre-race meal at 4:30 in the morning: I’m not sure if that actually qualifies as morning, or ‘the night before’.
It was dark, overcast, and cold. No rain…yet.
Lots of rain ponchos and cold weather gear for Floridians. As I looked around my corral, it certainly seemed as if most of the bibs were for the Half Marathon which started at the same time.
We got out quickly. As we passed the American Airlines arena and headed out–and up the ramp–on the MacArthur Causeway the wind was in our faces. The good news is that the Causeway (there were several throughout the course) provided a great viewing location…but the bad news was that the bagpipers who greeted runners about half-way across looked and sounded like drowned Scotsmen on the moors outside Glasgow.
It was dark for the first hour as we ran past the docks where all the cruise ships were moored, and headed out to South Beach to run along Ocean Drive. On a nicer day, I’m told that there are still people coming out of the clubs from the night before but…not today. It was raining by now…and there was one solitary sole offering either vodka or Starbuck’s…couldn’t be sure.
The course was quite crowded during the first 10-15 km. and there wasn’t a lot of room to run. The crowd was moving along nicely, however, and it was a pleasure to tuck in behind some Half-Marathoners and settle into a nice pace. The course went through Miami Beach which was relatively quiet except for the wind which was really whipping by now, and then we ran over the picturesque Venetian Causeway before turning back downtown where the Half-Marathoners ‘hung a left’ and finished their race.
That point is always somewhat of a downer for me. All of a sudden, you see most of the crowd you’ve been running with for the past 90 minutes or so ‘hang a left’ and you can hear the cheers for them from the Finish Line. And me…well…I ‘hang a right’ and head ‘outbound’ for another few hours and the path/crowd certainly thins out. I find that particular point one of the really tough parts of a course. All that goes on is my head is a feeling of “man…it would feel so good to just turn in here and finish…and it would be over…” and to gear up all over again is really hard. It feels, to me, as if I’m starting the race all over again.
We headed out to Coconut Grove which was a relatively pleasant run with palm trees up and down each side of the street. But…again…it’s simply a tough mental game to keep heading away from the Start/Finish because, well, you know that as far away as you go, you’ve got to come back the same way.
About 22 or 23 miles, I start playing this game: does it make me feel better to see the mileage markers in miles of kilometres? Which makes it seem closer to the end?
It’s raining harder then as we head out on our last Causeway: an out and back. Finally, I can see the towers that I know are around the Finish Line and we’re at 23 miles. There’s no one cheering along the way…and it’s a bit lonely running in the rain. I’m alternating between chasing down a few runners in front of me…and walking. Yes…I got to about 35/36km. in pretty good shape but…that wall just popped up in front of me and I was spent. It was a tough ending.
With about 400 metres to go, I really figured out where we were and…go figure…there’s a hill to conquer. Not that bad but…doesn’t it seem like in every Marathon there’s always a hill which, on its’ own isn’t that hard (I mean, we’ve all run tons of tougher hills that that one in our training with no problem) but it’s just where it’s located. I made it…around a corner…and full on as fast I could for the last one hundred metres to the Finish Line.
This was the first Marathon I’ve run where my wife–Antonella–was waiting for me. Gotta tell you…best feeling in the world to have someone you love cheering for you at the Finish!
Soaked to the skin (at least it wasn’t a cold, shivering cold where you are literally shaking) but loving every minute of it, I’m really glad it’s over.
This is where I was ready for the sun to come out and turn the day (it was only 10:00am in the morning) into a typical South Florida weekend. Didn’t happen. The whole ‘post-race’ experience was a bit of a drag…and unfortunately you couldn’t get your Race Results because the timing hardware wasn’t working. That’s disappointing. All I wanted to see was how I did.
Walked back to the hotel…hot shower…and it was noon. I was wondering what the rest of the world did with their Sunday morning.
One of the things I really savoured this time was the post-race week. Like many of us, I usually finish up on Sunday and head home either that evening or Monday morning. We stayed on for a few days this time, and I have to say that with each day after the Race, I felt better and better. I’ve said it before but…to simply run 42.2 km or 26 miles is something that not everyone gets to do and while we all share that common bond of having done it…it is a special community. It really is one of those shared experiences where I think you have to do it to know what it feels like. People see you in the hotel elevator and ask if you ran the Marathon and when you say ‘yes’…there’s a reaction from most that make you feel like…I did that. Yes…I did do that. DAMN RIGHT…I DID IT WELL AND I’M FEELING GOOD!!!
Maybe a bit of magic. I think that’s why I do it…just that feeling of wanting to be a little bit special for that one brief moment. That’s good enough for me.
PS editor’s note:
Mitch finished 7th in the Miami Marathon.