A few weeks ago, I decided to make a break for Florida after I passed my first IT certification. It was a pretty basic cert, but I never sat for an IT test before, and I went into hardcore study mode, stressing myself out with anxiety up to the morning of the exams. So even though I can’t believe I keep coming back to Florida, it is a really nice respite to be here with warm (not humid in March), sunshiny weather among the snowbirds.
Of course, once I knew my travel dates I looked up local races. Lucky me I found one! It was the 2nd Annual South Florida Race for Compassion 5K at John U Lloyd Beach State Park. Especially great was that it was being organized by a charity to specifically buy water filters to provide clean drinking water to communities that have extremely limited or no access to clean drinking water.
Just before the race started, we heard from Brenda, a young woman who benefited from the organization’s support as a child. Her story was very moving as she told us about being able to afford to go to school and her gratitude for help from a stranger who had no reason to help her, but he did just because he could. It was very inspirational.
The event was smallish with about 250 runners. Packet pickup was only the morning of race day which was actually pretty nice. One of the sponsors was Chick-Fil-A, and the franchise owner actually brought a ton of warm breakfast sandwiches for the participants. First sign that most of these people weren’t runners: the amount of them eating Chick-Fil-A breakfast sandwiches before the race. Another sign, it was 54 degrees out and people were wearing running tights, winter hats, gloves and sweatshirts galore (I even saw a scarf). I was getting sideways glances for only wearing capris and a short-sleeve shirt. This is prime racing weather in Chicago! Ah, well. In fairness, this was billed as a run/walk, so I think most of the participants were walkers.
The start line was on the beach — the beach alongside the Atlantic Ocean! GORGEOUS!! Since we were told only about 5 minutes of running would be on the beach before the course wound through the park’s trails, I (nor any other participants) wasn’t worried about running 3.1 miles in sand. Wellllllll… we found out once we hit the trails that everything was sand. Oh boy. Really, it wasn’t too bad, but any thoughts I had of having a sub-40 finish were tossed aside before the mile 1 marker.
And that’s partly because at the first turn of the course, the arrow signs pointed us back to the finish instead of up to the turnaround. Sooooo when the fast pack of runners made it almost to the finish in super record time, the organizers realized most of us had turned the wrong way. It is quite disconcerting to have a large pack of runners coming back at you yelling “Wrong Way! Turn around! The course is wrong!” Oh, well. It was now a 6/7K for us, although many of the runners / walkers called it quits at that point (only 1.2 miles!). The race organizer decided he would award medals for the short course and the “long” course. Another non-runners sign: no one was exceptionally upset that we ran extra mileage during the race. (Have you seen some of the comments on the Chicago Marathon fb page?)
The trails were really pretty. We ran through lots of lush, tropical greenery (forgive me, idk what the plant life specifically was), and every now and then caught a glimpse of the water.
There was a water and Gatorade station just past the 1 mile mark, and since the course doubled back we passed it again around mile 2. It was well stocked both times, and the volunteers there were great. But again with the non-runners: people actually stopped and stood around drinking their cups of water. Sigh. One group of girls I passed (!) were very very sure they were running 5 miles, because they knew a 5K = 5 miles. I didn’t have the heart to correct them.
The halfway point arrived at a roundabout on the trail. The lone volunteer there was SUPER cheery trying to convince us we were almost done.
There was even a photographer towards the end of the course! I decided to ham it up and do a Rocky pose as I passed by (I was also prompted to take a good photo by a cheery walker who doubled back after the short course to cheer us on to the finish). Hence my super fantastic race pic. The download only cost $6 so I actually bought a digital copy to support the photographer. If I wanted an actual photo, that would have only cost $6, too. I feel like I’m stealing something based on the race photo costs in Chicago!
Finally the finish line clock came into view. I had been going back and forth with another female runner for most of the race after the wrong way turnaround. She tried to beat me to the finish, but I had a much faster kick. I also beat a group of college girls who I could tell were not expecting me to finish ahead of them. HaHA!
Seriously, though, I probably only ran 60% of the course and walked the rest. Running on sand is tough, although it is actually easier than walking through sand. I blame the terrain, but I must also blame my lack of working out / running for most of February. Sigh, didn’t this happen in January, too? March really needs to be better.
Post race, there were giant bottles of water, bananas and oranges. I devoured the orange. I probably scared some people by the way I attacked that citrus. It was so delicious, and I had no inclination to eat the orange like a lady. I didn’t know anyone there anyway. :p
So despite the extra-long course and the crazy sand I really enjoyed this race. It was nice to run along the ocean, run in a race whose main focus really was charity, and run with a new mix of people. There were a lot of out-of-towners and quite a few people from other countries, too.
If you get the chance, I say do an oceanfront race … but try to get in some training on the sand! 🙂