Last month, Karen said she’d signed up for an 18 mile race on a weekend I was supposed to be out of town. When my plans changed, I was happy to sign up for a race on an island, since we needed to run 18 miles for our Walt Disney World Marathon training.
The 41st Annual St. Francis Community Center race was originally started to honor those killed in the 1972 bombings at the Munich Olympics, and then to honor those killed on 9/11. The race was expected to have a few hundred people, and is a point-to-point, from one end of Long Beach Island to the lighthouse on the other end.
Karen and I had been worried that it would be raining the entire race, but when we arrived on race morning, it was sunny and gorgeous. Although the more than 10 mph winds that were beating up the beach made it a little chilly.
We had our trusty arm warmers – done on the cheap with Target socks and a pair of scissors- so we knew we would stay warm. We impressed Karen’s uncle with this, and our carefully planned race outfits, as he dropped us off at the starting line. The race had clearly been well organized, as there were plenty of porta potties at the start, and tables full of bottled water, but before we knew it, the race fun went off, and it was time to start our journey.
We were one of the last few people to cross the start line, which made us happy, because we could run our own race. I loved running this race for a whole host of reasons, but Karen and I hadn’t run together in 2 weeks, so we had a lot to catch up on. For the first 8 miles, I kind of forgot we were even running a race.
The wind was killer for the first 8-10 miles. I could feel my legs working harder than normal, and starting to cramp in places that normally didn’t bother me. By about mile 10, we were both happy to see the amazing volunteers in their bright orange tech shirts with water, Gatorade, and orange slices at every mile marker. All along the way were families and small business owners cheering for us, giving us high-fives, and commenting on our awesome outfits (we counted 8 mentioned of our outfits, only one of them was a little creepy).
Every so often, we took notice of who that mile had been honoring, and dedicated it to them, but once we hit mile 15, every single step was further than we’d ever run before, and continued to be impressed with ourselves.
By mile 15, we also were tired of the orange slices. My face was a terrible combination of salt stains and sticky orange juice. When the wind and sand picked up on top of this, it was downright painful.
Karen and I both had our moments of being in pain, needing to stretch, or slowing down to walk a bit longer due to a cramp. It reminded me how lucky I am to have found such a perfect running partner. We listened to each other, motivated each other, and hugged as soon as we crossed the finish line. We are true sole sisters, and I am excited to mark new milestones over the next few months, as well as enjoy at least a few spa days 😊 We each had little mantras that we would mutter along the way when it got tough. And Karen even coined one, but I’ll leave that one for her to reveal.
But back to the race. Around mile 15, we realized how many people we had passed, but found one wonderful woman who we’d pass, or she’d pass us, and we’d end up running together for a bit. She is training for the NYC Marathon next month, and will be running the Runner’s World Festival next weekend too.
We pounded out every last step (which according to my Garmin was 18.2 miles), perked up when Karen’s family started to cheer us on in our last .2 miles, and had wonderful volunteers with water waiting for us. We finished vid under 4 hours, which is when we thought we’d finish. Our pace stayed pretty consistent, with some slower miles between 15 and 17, but we were both extremely happy with where we finished. After stretching a little, we waited for our new friend to cross so we could give her a high five, and headed home to stretch and recover.
Overall, the race was wonderful. It was extraordinarily planned for a small race, there were tons of people along the route to cheer us on, and plenty of fluids and oranges to keep us fueled (although I had my Camelbak and gels to keep me going). My biggest complaint is that cars came very close to runners as they drove down the road, and while no one was injured, there was a definite possibility for it.
I realized a long, point-to-point race is not ideal for me. I never felt like I knew what we were trying to reach, even though I knew it was the lighthouse. This race, in addition to being point to point, literally follows one road. So it got a little boring after a while. I need some action, or a change of scenery. I know, I’m high maintanence.
All in all, however, if you’re looking for a long, local race, on a gorgeous island, I highly recommend it. The organization was really amazing for a race with just over 700 participants, and the fans along route were just wonderful.
What’s the smallest race you’ve ever competed in?
How do you feel about running against the wind?
What gets you through tough miles?