If there’s one thing I enjoy more than races, its traveling somewhere for a race. Supporting a local race is important and there are a few that I really enjoy but when you travel for a race there’s a whole new layer of you add on top of the event. The downsides are you have to spend more money and your hotel may not be as comfortable as home. You also have to pay close attention to your packing list or you could forget something important. The upsides are you get to go somewhere for a mini-vacation, try new restaurants, run in new locations and just an overall sense of you’ve gone to “An Event”. That’s how Miami felt for the Miami Marathon this past weekend. Now, I was born in Miami but I haven’t spent much time down there in over 15 years so it may as well be a different country to me (actually it does feel that way…)
I was doing the full marathon and Melanie was doing the half. This was her first time traveling somewhere specifically for a race so we made sure to pay close attention to how we packed. With the Expo open until 6pm on Saturday and Miami about a 4 hour drive, we started off with a nice breakfast at First Watch and then got on the road.
Before we even got to the expo we met my mom in Miami for lunch. She had the key to the apartment we were borrowing for the weekend and it was a good chance to get lunch anyway since we were somewhat in the area. (60 miles vs 250)
After lunch and a toilet paper delivery (the apartment was out…so I got to carry that around the expo…) it was off to the expo! I have to say I was impressed with the size of this one. Its really been a while since I’ve seen an expo nearly this nice. It was also the first sign of the truly international flavor of this race. Flags from dozens of countries lined the walk in and translators were waiting to help non-English speakers. Packet pickup was as smooth as could be and Melanie and I roved the expo for a while. I didn’t buy any Miami specific swag but Fit2Run was selling 110% compression gear at 50% off and I love that brand.
Once we left, I did also stumble upon the Miami mecca of Nespresso. Oh to live near one of these!
Finally we finished the night at a great local Italian restaurant. We got really lucky to get in. When we got there at 6:30 I assumed we’d sit right down. What was I thinking? The place was packed and Melanie and I both had an “ah ha” moment when we realized that it was full of runners. But we spotted 2 bar seats and sat right down to one of the best Italian meals I’ve had out.
After dinner it was time to relax and then go to bed. We lucked into an apartment literally at the race starting line.
I’m fairly always a wreck on a big race day. I personally am happy to be a little early and just be there, ready to go. But I don’t think either of us were eager to go stand in the 52F weather (yeah, we’re from the South…that may as well be the arctic tundra…) so we finally made it down about 5:55. I will say the corral layout is fairly confusing so it took about 10 minutes to walk all the way around to ours but once we were in, we were nice and toasty. Or at least not as freezing.
I had wanted to find the 4:15 pace group and run with them but it was too hard in that sea of people to find them so I went with my built in pacer…my Fenix 2. Even though Melanie was doing the half, this race starts everyone at the same time and the half marathon breaks off with only about 1/10th of a mile to go. The plan was to run the race together and we did just that!
The perfect running weather and beautiful course really combined to make the first half of the race pretty special. We really had a wonderful time the entire 13 miles. It was amazing to see the people who were in the race. We determined the largest group was South and Central Americans. The second largest group, interestingly, seemed to be Orthodox Jews. I realize it was Miami but it was surprising and pretty cool to see so many people with running kepahs (that’s the skullcap for all you Gentiles out there).
There was really great energy and cheering through the whole first half of the race. But eventually Melanie and I did have to part. For the 2nd half of the race, I had only one goal: no walking. My last marathon I had a really strong race until mile 20 when the wheels came off. My goal had been to have an easy first half with Melanie and then hold that until the end.
The course itself was a little quieter after the halfway point but there was still some great crowds cheering us on along the course. If you’ve never gone to cheer on a race, go do it some time and take big signs. When I’m limping along, I like a funny sign. Around mile 21, the 4:15 pacer overtook me and I was determined to stick with her as long as I could. Amusingly, she had dropped her whole pace group but pressed on. She was excited that she’d finish with someone and we swapped Ironman stories for a solid 3 miles. But I could feel my legs cramping a bit and I was determined to keep a solid pace until the end so I finally dropped around mile 24.
Those last couple of miles really hurt but I stuck to my goal of not dropping to a walk. I was on the verge of cramping for the last mile but I just gutted it out and pulled off a slight PR in the process of 4:17:24. I’ll take it! Right after I crossed the line, Melanie was there waiting for me too which was definitely nice.
It was really great to do a destination race with Melanie. This was her first real “out of town” race and it couldn’t have gone better for both of us. We kept the pace nice and reasonable so that we really could enjoy the race. The venue was beautiful, the race was well run, and the weather was perfect. There were bands and music and crowds. Definitely a race I’d recommend to anyone looking for a fun marathon.