4th Annual 26.2 with Donna (The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer)
Quote of the Race: "This race is great! It's like a Boston Marathon atmosphere! This is what it's all about. I'll see you on the road running (in the future!)" - Bill Rodgers, Four time New York City Marathon winner and masters world record holder for 5k, 8k, 10k and 10 miles - said to Jenny and I after Jenny recognized him in the chute after our half marathon finish and approached him to congratulate.
Location - Jacksonville & Jacksonville Beach. Race is an out-and-back that begins and finishes at the MAYO CLINIC.
Cost - Full Marathon: $75-$125 depending on pre-registration date.
Half Marathon: $55-$95 depending on pre-registration date.
Marathon Relay: $250-$300 depending on pre-registration date.
Year of Running - 4th Annual
Sponsor/Race Directors - Donna Deegan and The Donna Foundation, Jeff Galloway Training, The MAYO CLINIC, Publix, Genentech, Amgen, Eisai Oncology, Sanofi Aventis, MENTOR, VitaminID.com, Coffee Perks, 97.9 KissFM, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Macy's, Key Buick, Firehouse Subs, First Coast News, Winn Dixie, GU Energy Gel and more.
Charity - Proceeds go to breast cancer research and care. To date the race has attracted more than 26,000 runners and raised more than $2 million dollars.
Number of Participants - I'm a bit confused about this. According to the announcer at the race start they claimed to have 10,000 participants in this year's race. According to the official race results on the website there were the following:
Full Marathon - 670 Male, 942 Female = 1,612 total
Survivor Marathon finishers - 2 Male, 42 Female = 43 total
Half Marathon - 983 Male, 3,049 Female = 4,032 total
Survivor Half Finishers - 3 Male, 181 Female = 184 total
Relay Marathon - 153 male, 215 Female = 367 total
By my math that's about 6,238 participants not including the 5k runners that raced the day before. Regardless, it's an awesome event with an awesome race field.
Available Races - Full Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay on Sunday with a 5k on Saturday.
Course Condition - Asphalt paved road with about 2 miles being on hard-packed beach sand along the Atlantic Ocean. This course is flat and about as fast as they come with no hills except for a medium incline bridge that passes over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Pace Groups - Yes, for both Half Marathon and Full Marathon.
Expo - One of the best in the region; hands down. Located at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. There were more than 100 vendors and tons and tons of free stuff being given out. First Place Sports was also there selling just about anything running related. The atmosphere is definitely "Female" orientated, but any male runner can find plenty of goodies here.
ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS:
To date this is one of my favorite races in terms of superior organization, tons of support and plenty of emotion all around. Being a breast cancer fund raiser and awareness campaign everything is pink from the mile markers to the race t-shirts. This is also the only race I've ever attended of this size where there is never a wait for a restroom before, during or after the race. I suspect because it's a race with many more female participants than males they really score on making sure there are more than enough restrooms EVERYWHERE. From packet pickup to checked bags to race day transportation to checked bag pickup everything flows seamlessly without stress or frustration. For being only the 4th year this race could serve as a model for any other race in terms of organization.
The support is excellent. There are plenty of aid stations armed with more than enough volunteers handing out water, Gatorade and GU gels all along the course. Did I mention there are plenty of bathrooms along the course as well??? Medical personnel roam the course on bicycles and this is a closed road course.
This race has a very big emotional factor for thousands when it comes to breast cancer or cancer in general. Hundreds and hundreds of spectators line the course to watch and cheer on participants. Residents living along the course in different neighborhoods sit out in their driveways playing music and sometimes offering their own aid stations stocked with food, water and I even saw one with beer. Even along the more isolated sections of the course there are spectators along the highway and bridge.
This race is set up for easy access by locals or out of town visitors. Jacksonville is accessible by Interstate 95 from the north and south and Interstate 10 from the west. For those flying in there is an International Airport just outside of town with shuttles to many of the race sponsored hotels that have shuttles to the race start before and after the race.
Oh my God! There's tons of swag to be had at the EXPO. For participants there are long sleeve tech shirts (white for male and pink for female), draw-string race backpacks that double as checked bags on the day of race and the normal race sponsor items and coupons inside these bags when picked up at the EXPO. Race finishers get a super cool medal and two beverage tickets that can score beer in the family reunion area.
POST RACE AWARDS & FOOD:
Plenty of volunteers line the chute after the finish line with everything a finisher could ask for whether it's water, an emergency blanket, ice packs, post race photographs and oh, don't forget the medal. All finishers get a really cool medal. As the chute funnels out into the Runner's Village there's a first aid station and lots and LOTS of food. Panera Bread serves hot soup, Publix serves fruit (bananas, oranges & muffins) and various sponsors give away their products. Runners easily claim their checked bags and then can filter out into the Family Reunite Area where there's more food for sale, beverages and live music being played. Each participant gets two beverage vouchers on their race bibs good for beer or soda or water. A lot of Jenny's friends that don't drink gave me their vouchers so I had a beer or four! At noon they gave out awards on stage. Top finishers in age groups get backpacks!
MY RACE STORY:
This is a race that I will hopefully remember for the rest of my life. It was one of those times when all the planets and stars align just perfectly and create something wonderful and special and memorable.
First off, it's the day before Valentine's Day and last year Jenny and I (only dating for a few months) ran a marathon relay (Five Points of Life) together on Valentine's Day. We decided after that race that we should always do a race on Valentine's Day. Screw going out for an overpriced meal at a fancy restaurant with a long wait and bad service!
Secondly, it's a Team Hot Legs event (a couple dozen of Jenny's female runner friends call themselves Hot Legs) and by my count nine of them are here on race day. Then there's myself and one other male, Don, who happens to be a 50 Stater (has run 1 marathon in each of the 50 states) and is a father of one of the founders of Hot Legs, Katie. So this race is almost a girl's weekend for Jenny, except I'm here and a few other husbands, boyfriends, fathers are too.
Lastly, Jenny and I are both dealing with on-going injuries so this is our first longer distance race in a few months. We're only running the Half Marathon and everyone else is running the full including three girls running their first full marathon.
Jenny asks me several times in the days before the race if I want to run together? My answers were vague, but consistent; I'd like to run with her, but I'm not sure I can keep up with her with my Achilles tendon being a little bothersome and I don't want to force her to run slow (which can be equally painful). The day of the race comes and we're standing in the corral trying to keep warm and Jenny asks again, "what's the plan?"
I answer with let's run together and see how it goes. Let's make this a fun run. No pressure. Enjoy the course. We find Michelle and Tracy in the start corral, but have lost everyone else in the exciting few minutes before the start.
Jeff Galloway and Donna Deegan both give speeches and then there's the countdown. I'm tall enough to see the 30 or 40 yards in front of me where the elites are toeing the line. There's a purse in this race so the Kenyans and Russians are here. There's a countdown and then the gun fires, music plays and pink graffiti goes everywhere!
Like so many races there's some weaving and passing for the first few minutes, but after the first mile everyone has spread out into the proper paces. I would later learn that our first mile is our slowest at 8:48 average pace. Jenny and I fall into conversation. We talk in detail about how cold our extremities are, the Intracoastal Waterway we are seeing along the course and many other random subjects. Before I know what's happened we pass the mile 5 marker. I'm feeling really good at this point.
We run down the beach and it's absolutely beautiful. I was worried there might be good waves to surf and that I might feel like I was missing out, but the Atlantic ocean looks like a lake and there are no waves to be surfed. The conversation continues and we're both feeling great. Part of our strategy is to run a "conversation pace." If we're able to have a conversation then we're "taking it easy," and not going at race pace.
We pass the mile 11 marker and I'm almost dumbfounded about how good I feel. I look at my Garmin and become more confused. After doing the math I figure that if we run the final 2.1 miles at an 8 minute or faster pace I should easily beat my half marathon PR. I tell Jenny this and since we're both feeling so good we decide to go for it. We turn on our iPods for the first time. The first thing I hear is a Spanish lesson. Sh*T! I press forward and get another Spanish lesson. I downloaded some basic Spanish lessons before our vacation to Colombia last month and now my iPod is stuck in Spanish lesson hell when I need it to play something hard and heavy. Finally I get to some music. It's Hoobastank's "Running Away." Fitting. . . so I go with it. Right around mile 12 there is a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. It's the only bridge and the only hill. Jenny goes ahead of me as she's better going up and I'm usually better going down so I'll catch her. This is a strategy we used during the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll marathon. Only problem this time is there's several hundred high school kids just before the top of the bridge manning an aid station and cheering us on. It's awesome and I give some of the girls high fives as I run past. Only problem is they are accidentally creating a bottleneck and I get stuck behind several runners and once I'm through I realize I'm not to the top yet. This "hill" ends up taking a little more out of me than I expected and Jenny gets a little further away. I pick up the pace going down and pass a lot of runners, but Jenny still turns and slows down for me at the bottom. We turn the final corner and can see the finish line about a half mile away. Jenny says that Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" just came on her iPod, one of her favorite running songs. My iPod begins to play "Give it all" by Rise Against. Epic! I look over at her and say "let's do this," and we both start kicking it. We cross the finish line a few minutes later running a 6:55 pace and holding hands! I look at my Garmin and I've shattered my half marathon PR by nearly a minute!
I don't usually buy the race pictures, but this one I might just have to make an exception.
This was one of the most meaningful and fun races to date. Everything about it was feel good! Heck, somewhere between getting water in the chute and getting our photos taken Jenny recognized Bill Rodgers standing over to the side all by himself. He had just finished a few minutes ahead of us and was cooling down. Jenny approached him to say hi and that's when I heard the "quote of the race," at the top of my blog.
After getting some food and icing our injuries Jenny and I spent the rest of the day watching her fellow Hot Legs finish the full marathon. There were quite a few PRs to be had and even a BQ. It's a great race and I'll always be up to run it again.
My official stats (Sunday results only):
214th out of 4,032 half marathon finishers
21st in my age division (30-34) out of 110 (top 19%)
Chip Time: 1:48:31 (a new half marathon PR!)
5-Mile split time: 41:10
Average pace: 8:17 (6:55 negative split on the last mile)
26.2 with Donna TallGuySurfing grade = A