The Publix A1A Marathon is the first big event of the year for us multi-sport athletes. A chance to see what your off-season training level (or lack of it) is.
This year my goal was to break the 5-hour mark for the marathon. I had come really close 2 years ago at 5:11:24. This year, I decide to run with a pace group, something I’ve never done before. The Publix A1A Marathon provides pace group leaders for all paces, so I decided to use one.
The woman leading my pace group was a delightful 72-year-old named Marie. This marathon was to be her 446th! 3 years ago she had had a stroke, and had recovered enough to have done another 150 races since. An amazing lady for sure!
It was decently cool when the run started. Pacer Marie led us out through downtown Fort Lauderdale towards the beach and A1A. There were quite a few spectators along the way, braving the darkness and cheering. Once we made it to A1A and started heading north, the crowds got bigger. There was a decent breeze off the ocean and some cloud cover for a while.
About 4 miles out, we entered John Birch Park for a loop through the great scenery there. Everyone was doing well with the pace, and having a good time. I thought, “Hey this pace group stuff isn’t so bad!” Coming out of the park, we once again headed north on A1A. This would be the longest stretch of the run, as we had to go all the way to the Hillsboro Inlet before turning around.
More spectators and people just out walking, everyone waving and saying hello. About 11 miles out we lose our first group member. They dropped back to a slower pace for a while. About 14 miles out, we lose another one, then another. I was feeling good though and with only 3 of us left in the group, we carried on.
Around mile 16 now, and it’s just me and Pacer Marie left in our group. We chatted a while and enjoyed the scenery for a bit. Around mile 19, Pacer Marie says I should “go ahead for a while” and she’d catch up. This was odd, since i was supposed to be running with her. She insisted I go, so I did. Shortly after, I re-discovered how hard it is to run long distances on your own.
I am on my own and it slowly becomes more of a struggle with each mile that goes by. Now the sun is also out in full force, and I am sucking down every bit of water and ice I can get. Finally, the beach comes into sight and I realize I’ve only got 4 miles to go. About this time, I am re-joined by Pacer Marie. We commiserate about the heat for a while, then get into gear for the last stretch of run to the finish.
Coming down A1A towards the finish, there are a LOT more people out and about now. Most of them cheer, some watch silently, and some wonder what’s going on. It’s a great feeling knowing the finish line is really close now. Pacer Marie’s husband joins us, and thanks me for running with her. He worries about her out on the course since her stroke, but she’s a strong lady.
As we get closer to the finish line, he tells me I can run ahead if I want. I take off for the finish so I can get the run over with and find my friends. They had done the half-marathon (cause they’re only “half crazy”) and were waiting for me. I see the finish chute ahead and crank it up a little more and cross the finish in 5:19:34. A little off my time goal, but the experience was awesome. I met Pacer Marie who led me to believe anything is possible at any age!
Be sure to check out the photo gallery for the marathon HERE
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