Latest reviews by Amy

(2016)
"Live Your Life Well"
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Upon hearing the name Tomoka Marathon, you are forgiven if you are unable to place it geographically with your first three guesses. A savory dish of swamp cabbage if you can, as Tomoka is an area near Ormond Beach, Florida. Tomoka is a corruption of Timucua, the indigenous people who once lived in Volusia County. That’s on the Atlantic coast, south of Jacksonville and near the Daytona/Orlando area.
The course is on “the Tomoka Loop,” designated as one of Florida’s Scenic Highways.

As I tripped along (it was pre-dawn) the first several miles, not only did I appreciate the promised “old growth forests,” I surprisingly was reminded of some Montana and North Dakota marathons I’d run. Not that those states had palm trees, but the straight expanse of solitary road stretching as far as I could see was reminiscent of rural races.

We fell into a quietly companionable single file, soaking in unobstructed vistas of two rivers, barrier island dunes, inland creeks and marshes. The simple beauty of the land inspires even as it insidiously intimidates. No thronging crowds; the occasional supporter with her lone cowbell encourages, while inadvertently underscoring the enormity of the task at hand.

Birdsong accompanied us between the welcoming cheers of the dedicated volunteers aiding us all along the course. So glad I decided to run without earbuds and really experience the unique terrain and atmosphere here. At an out and back well past the midpoint, around miles 18-20, we got to see one another and caught up with some of the half marathoners.

We knew what lay ahead. Visions of reveling in the beauty of the finish area filled our heads. The race starts and finishes amidst The Casements, a winter home of the Rockefellers and now a public cultural center. To earn it, however, there was the matter of a bridge. The one that you had to surmount just after passing the 25 mile marker.

Along with seeing to all the details that make a good marathon great, the RD had a spirited group of pacers for us. Just in time, Daniel Bucci pulled up alongside me on the climb and urged me onward. Soon we were rolling downhill, around the bend, under the bridge and across the finish line to the celebration. And it, like the race, did not disappoint. We left with a true appreciation of the race motto on our beautiful finishers medals: “Live your life well.”

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(2016)
"First Watch: First Rate"
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One of the great things about this race is that it is ALL ABOUT the half marathon. It's not part of a full marathon. The total focus is on the half, which is a super experience. In fact, I'd recommend this for a first time half marathoner. There is lots of crowd support and the course is interesting and varied, well, as varied as we get in central/south Florida! No real elevation issues, but there are the bridge crossings to provide a bit of challenge. Race is very well organized, lots of all the necessities: aid stations, porta potties, mile markers, food afterwards and views throughout. You see some different neighborhoods and landmarks in Sarasota and the sunrise over the Gulf. I've run it more than once, and drive up over an hour the day of the race. There is plenty of parking, but as in anything in life, if you cut the timing too close, you may well regret it. Get there early: there's a large spread of vendors and you can warm up or stand in line for the bathrooms. You'll appreciate the early start as once the sun rises, it can get hot. Dress accordingly! Really appreciate being able to pick up my number the day of the race.
Another nice new feature is AG winners can pick up their awards at the timing verification tables. For folks who have to get on the road home, this is big.
Experienced half marathoner or first timer, you really can't go wrong with this race. The relay is also handled very well; I've known a number of runners who've participated in it and they all give it high marks. The addition of the relay only makes the race better for those of running all 13.1 miles. Their hand-off is of course about midpoint for us, so there's a lot of support right when you can use it. That verve really gives you a boost and headed out for your last half of the race with some real positive energy. Beautiful finish by the shore and lots of room to celebrate your finish. Great photo ops abound!
They're not kidding, by the way; the race seems to sell out every year, so sign up asap or you may regret it!

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(2016)
"Lots of fun, views and support"
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I've run this four years in a row. The Race Team are experienced and know how to put on a race. Start time is early, which is good as this is SE FL, so it gets warm once the sun is up. You watch the sun rise over the ocean, end up on a bike path for a while before ending on the streets, which are marked well and patrolled. The worst traffic issue is when you're finishing; if you're sub 4 hours, you'll be encountering slower half marathoners, which is only an issue when they walk 4 abreast. When you're at mile 23 and 24, every extra step going 'round folks is given grudgingly by most of us! Just be aware--most folks are very kind and scoot out of the way.
Huge medals if you're into that, and I know lots are: you'll be very happy with this race. Unique, usually with movable parts. Fantastic spread of food and fun at the finish, which is right at the beach. You can cross the finish and be in the ocean a few minutes later, depending on how much speed you have left!
The expo is tricky, as it's in a building right at the port where cruises dock and leave from, so the traffic/parking scene there is involved. You also have to pay for parking. It's hourly, so not bad, just FYI.
This is a good first marathon and a fantastic vacation marathon. February in Florida! Come on down!

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(2016)
"The Mettle of Melbourne"
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When I first started running a few decades ago in Massachusetts, I often ran during my lunch hour. My job as a Family Law Coordinator called for me to spend most of my time in an open area in the county courthouse. It was rather like a study hall, where I advised “pro se” litigants, i.e., folks who were representing themselves because they couldn’t afford lawyers.

One of my colleagues, Brennan, was an experienced triathlete. He was very generous with his knowledge and time, encouraging me in any number of ways. I’d gotten into the habit of peeking into Brennan’s office before heading out at lunch to check on the weather. My work station was not near a window, and he had a good view of the street. Whenever he caught me at it, he’d shoo me out with the proviso: “Get out there. They don’t cancel the race on account of rain.”just run

This past Sunday (February 7th), I ran a marathon in Melbourne, Florida–aptly called “The Florida Marathon.” I ran it last year and loved it. There are so many reasons: it’s a delightful course, has spirited volunteers, a strong organization and then there’s the music. Live bands and some solo musicians are featured all along the course–including a pianist with his gorgeous white grand piano on one of the bridges. Just like Big Sur, and I’ve run that one, so the comparison is genuine.

Pianist, melbourne
Pianist, 2015 Marathon in Melbourne

The weather on Race Sunday was cool, mid 40s, and windy. No rain, but really windy–20 mph winds with gusts. Signs and some of the races fences were blown down, along with a balloon display. So that made it feel colder than the temps indicated. Not ideal, but when do you get ideal? At least it wasn’t raining, I thought as I layered up in the dark morning and trotted down to the start.

While it was somewhat arduous, it was a great run. The good news was that it’s a 2 loop course, so you were getting the wind in different directions. The not-so-fabulous part was that the wind was in your face as you crossed the second bridge at mile 12-13. Meaning: you were forewarned about what to expect in the last miles of the marathon.

My plan was to just keep moving, even if in a speed-walk to the top of the bridge, and then rely on gravity to bring me down the other side and over the finish line. It didn’t work that way; when I leaned forward to start my descent, the wind whipped me upright! Somehow I managed to hurl myself ahead and cover that last stretch to my medal.

Afterwards, I was surprised to learn that about 400 registrants (half and full combined) failed to show up for their races. Sure, there are always some folks who get hurt or whose travel plans fall through, but some of the AWOL runners had to have stayed away due to weather. And that’s too bad.

Finishing a distance race gives you a sense of accomplishment. Doing so under challenging conditions embellishes that feeling. Once you get a tough one under your shoes, no one can take that away from you. You come out stronger and are a better runner for it.

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(2016)
"Sparkling Gem"
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Very well organized half marathon in a planned community on the Florida west coast. The race is a loop course that begins and ends in the lovely downtown area of Lakewood Ranch. Runners get a tech shirt, gender specific and a cap at the finish. Medal is attractive and AG awards are trivets, so you can hang or use them. Runners are on paved roads with some very gentle inclines that go by several small lakes. You run as the sun rises and have birds for companions as you tick off the miles. Better than average food at the finish. Pick up can be had in the days before the race or the morning of, and is efficient, no hassle and easy. In 2016, they even has a baritone from the Met sing the Star Spangled Banner; very cool way to start!!

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