Our alarm went off at 4:30am, and we were slooooooow to get out of bed. We dragged ourselves around, getting dressed for the big day! MA rocked an tribute to her mom on her back…
And I decided to be brave and wear shorts, not totally sure what kind of weather to expect. We walked out the door of our hotel room and got blasted with FREEZING cold air. We promptly turned right around, went back to the hotel room, and bundled up in sweats and long sleeves – this time with a gear check bag.
When we got to the Runner’s Village, I realized this was a much bigger race than I had originally thought – there were people everywhere! I thought it was very interesting that there was a concession booth open at 5:30am selling biscuits and gravy to runners getting ready to run full and half marathons…
It didn’t feel much like Florida at 6am this morning – it was about 40 degrees outside! Since it was still dark outside, they had huge spotlights that were powered by gigantic generators, and I stood behind one in the warm exhaust trying to keep warm. Disgusting, I know.
At the last possible moment, we ditched our long sleeves and shivered our way to the start corrals. My plan was to just support Mary Ann and run whatever pace she felt comfortable with for her FIRST half marathon – so proud of her! Since I wasn’t worried about time or pace at all, I decided to run with my camera to capture all the action – I am so glad I did because this was a beautiful course! We had our picture taken just before the start…
And MA, stretched to get warm.
She did not seem nearly as affected by the cold as I did.
A few songs, a few speeches, and we were headed towards the starting line!
There were SO many runners! Between the marathon, half-marathon, and 5-person relay teams, there were over 10,000 runners today! The very first mile went over a gigantic bridge, giving some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen in a race. The sun was just coming up, and there was a beautiful mist coming off of the water as we cleared the bridge…
We headed down the expressway into a beach community, lined with really cute beach houses and palm trees everywhere. This section of the course was really crowded! I stopped to go to the bathroom and Mary Ann kept running – I swore to her that I would find her and catch up. The course was so packed that it was reaaaaaally hard for me to weave in and out to get to her. As soon as the path opened up onto a wider street, I took off down the open space at a full sprint. I checked my Garmin at the end of the race, and it turns out that I ran the 4th mile at a 7:38 pace in order to catch her!
Around mile 5, we started our descent onto the beach – SO exciting!
The beach was absolutely gorgeous, and by this point the sun was up and we had the PERFECT day for running – 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!
I had no idea how much I would love running on the beach – I wish the entire race had been on sand! It really makes me want to move to the beach so I can run there every day. I am such a beach girl.
We stopped for a quick picture to capture the fun of a beach race…
And I continued to harass Mary Ann with my camera most of the race. I basically just goofed off and had fun the whole time – talking her ear off and trying to distract her from the actual running we were doing.
Around mile 7, the half marathoners turned off, and the rest of the full marathoners kept going (I was jealous!)…
We exited the beach and headed back towards 3rd Avenue into the homestretch…
These fun little guys lined the entire course – so cute!
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Around mile 10, I got REALLY excited because the lead marathoners were coming through, and they ran right past us – these guys were moving FAST! I found out after the fact that the winner set a course record, finishing in 2:15:00 – insane!
We raced along, stopping to do some walking/running at this point, because Mary Ann was starting to feel the effects of double digit mileage. I enjoyed the scenery…
And snagged some free GU packs – I didn’t eat them, just held onto them and saved them for my next long training run. Chocolate Outrage is my favorite!
We got back to the huge bridge and ran over it AGAIN – but this time towards the finish line!
And the next thing I knew, we were done! I was so proud of Mary Ann for doing her first big race, and I was so glad I got to be there to enjoy it with her. Plus our medals were really pretty! :)
We hung around the finisher’s area for a bit, and I stocked up on fresh fruit. I had a couple of these delicious orange slices, and snagged some bananas and apples for my car ride home.
We took the shuttle back to our hotel room, and I grabbed my other (good) camera for a quick trip out to the beach before we had to check out. I was so sad that I had to drive back to Charlotte today, because it was seriously the PERFECT day to be at the beach – I wanted to play out there all day long!
Mary Ann dragged me off the beach eventually, and we quickly showered, packed up, and left the hotel. We headed to Moe’s for a post-run lunch of Mexican food! I got a yummy tofu and bean salad, which was exactly what I was craving at the time – so good.
Sadly, after lunch it was time to say goodbye :( I pointed my GPS towards home and hit the road back to Charlotte, singing and snacking on my post-race fruit the whole way. Six veeeery long hours later, I made it back to my house in time to eat some dinner, do some homework, and head to bed to rest up for another busy week.
It was such a whirlwind of a weekend – driving 12 hours, being in Florida for 22 hours, and running 13.1 miles! Whenever I tell people about doing stuff like this, they say that I am crazy. But I say, life is too short to not take advantage of doing “crazy” things – like driving 12 hours to support your friend as she runs to honor her amazing breast-cancer-surviving mother.
To me, it would be crazy not to…