Bienvenido A Miami
Last weekend, I ran the Miami Half Marathon with my dear cousin, Alyssa, and her friend, Jenni. Both of them ran the full marathon. Because the full and the half start together and stay together until mile 12.5, I only had to run the last half mile alone.
While this wasn't my best half marathon (2:35), I always feel accomplished when I finish. I pray a lot during and I'm so grateful each time I cross another finish line. Alyssa, Jenni, and I chatted throughout, admiring the gorgeous waterfront scenery. This was the most beautiful marathon we'd ever done. The temp was around 71 degrees most of the race, and it was overcast, but also very humid. That made it challenging, along with the fact that I didn't sleep the night before! That doesn't normally happen to me.
The adventure began when we realized that 30,000 people would be running Sunday morning, and we had to drive down to Miami from Ft Lauderdale where we were staying with my sister's wonderful friend, Kara Kostanich. We knew it would be so challenging to find parking, and to even get through the inevitable traffic jams. At the expo on Saturday, we found out that public transportation trains would be the best way to avoid the traffic and relieve the stress of trying to find parking. We bought train passes and a parking pass for the car to remain in the parking lot while we ran.
We ate dinner that night with some friends who were also running the race. Hea (of Team Hea and Bria) and the friends all got a condo together on Miami Beach, and we met them at an awesome Spanish restaurant where I ate the best roasted chicken, black beans and white rice I'd ever had. I also didn't know I liked plantains (because I hate bananas), but turns out that I loved them. We made it back to Ft Lauderdale and visited with our sweet hosts, Kara and her husband, Nelson, before getting to bed around 11:30pm. And I didn't sleep. But the night was short anyway, and we left at 4:30am to get to the train station.
We were told at the expo that we had to make the 5:20am train. Otherwise, we would miss the 6:15am race start. We got into the car and Alyssa realized we left the train tickets upstairs. We ran back up, counted them to make sure we got them all, and then got on the road later that we anticipated. According to the GPS, we still would make the 5:20am train. Then, when we were almost there, I realized I had forgotten about the parking pass. Obviously, we would be able to buy the pass at the station, but it would waste time we no longer had. We pulled in at 5:19am, and the security guard was not much help at first. He worked at the parking garage and had nothing to do with the train station. Jenni ran over to the computer kiosks where we could buy the parking pass, but that thing was not user friendly. We realized we would miss the train, but being seasoned racers, we knew that Corral G (my corral for the race), would not cross the starting line for at least 20 minutes after the start, so we felt fine about being a little late. Meanwhile, other runners parked and raced past us to the train, obviously remembering to bring all their tickets and parking passes from the expo.
By the time we got sorted out, we were pretty much delirious and got on the train laughing and not caring that we would be late to the start. Our chips (the electronic strip on our BIBs) would tell us when we actually started and finished. Plus, there were about 30 other runners with us on the train, so at least we'd all be late together. We had to hop off one train and transfer onto the Miami Metromover (or something like that) which would drop us off directly at the starting line. Luckily, there were more security guards who were helping everyone get onto the correct trains. We squished onto the little unmanned Metromover with all the other runners, and at one stop, a small group departed. I heard one of them say, "For bag check." And then they were gone. This was still several stops before we planned to get off at the starting line. The majority of runners were still on the train with us. I looked at the girls, and we all shrugged and decided we'd stick to our plan because we assumed the bag check would be at the start.
Nope. We would soon find out that the bag check was at the finish line...four blocks away. But we did get off the train at 6:00am and were walking up to the thousands of people already in their corrals in plenty of time for the 6:15am start. We had been misinformed about missing the start time if we missed that one train. We asked the first volunteer we saw about bag check, and she pointed and said, "All the way back there." We started walking against the sea of hundreds of runners still approaching the start line. Apparently, they all knew where the bag check was because they had read the booklet, unlike us. We walked the four blocks, still not caring because we still had plenty of time before the start, and for Corrals A, B, C, D, E, and F to cross the line before G made it there. This was the first time any of us had checked a bag, and we managed to make sure my number was attached to the bag because I would be done first and would need to pick it up while waiting for Alyssa and Jenni to finish the full.
At this point, we were all desperate for the bathroom as well. The lines for the port-a-potties at the starting line were horrendous, and we asked the girl at bag check if there were other bathrooms. She pointed, and we walked up to the ones we thought she meant. They were all chained off. Then we saw them another block away. At this point, we started running. Because we were five blocks from the start, there were no lines for these port-a-potties, so we all went and then started running back toward the starting line just as the horn sounded for the official start.
Also, we were the ONLY people running back to the start. Everyone else had managed to get there except us! All the race photographers were still lingering on the sidewalk. Suddenly, we were movie stars, and they were the paparazzi. They looked amused at the three girls running so late, and running before we even got to the race. They would look up and see us and start snapping photos and telling us we looked great.
By the time we reached the crowds at the start, we could see Corral E walking toward the starting line. Alyssa was assigned to Corral E, and because the official was not paying attention, we slipped right in. With all that time lost, we managed to get to the starting line sooner than if we had done everything right! We crossed around 6:30am, fifteen minutes past the official start time. Not too bad in a crowd of 30,000.
And we raced and had a great time!
I decided to split this into two blog posts and the second post is coming with my videos from the race.
What Alyssa, Jenni, and I learned from this race:
1) Get a hotel or place to stay near the starting line at a race in a city one is unfamiliar with
2) Get a hotel or place to stay near the starting line at a race with 10,000 people or more
3) Read the pamphlet
4) Have a chaperone! Someone to drive if needed, and someone to carry a bag for you!