>In yesterday’s post, I talked very briefly about some of the really nice things about the 4th Annual 26.2 with Donna. This was not a small race – there were more than 10,000 participants in the event. That said, it felt small because of how charming, welcoming, and exceptional the environment was.
I thought it made sense to share with you some of the things I really liked about this race. As there are quite a lot of things I’m going to write about, I decided to do it bullet style:
- The Expo: I don’t normally write about liking an expo, but the expo for this race is really an event. Unlike some triathlon expos, this expo was held at a large convention center in Jacksonville. There were literally hundreds of companies there selling and giving out goodies. Now, certainly many of the product were targeted towards females – but that does make sense given the main charity for the race.
- The Swag: Among the “normal” race flyers and ads for sponsors, the swag bag for this marathon had lots of interesting information about breast cancer research, information about the Mayo Clinic, and some good nutrition samples. The race shirt was a nice long-sleeved technical t-shirt. The whole package came in a high-quality drawstring backpack
- The Celebrities: Well, it wasn’t the Grammys, but there were some high-profile folks at the race. Take for example, Mr. Run-Walk himself, Jeff Galloway. Galloway leads several training groups for this marathon, and as a result, he’s a fixture here. Another high profiler: Joan Benoit-Samuelson. She has run this race every year, and was again on hand. Then there were the Kenyans. OK, I really mean to say the elite runners. There was a pack of them, and boy were they fast. The winner finished in 2:20.
- Great On-Course Signs: Given the topic (breast cancer), you could imagine how good & creative some of the signs were. Some of the ones that caught my eye: “Saving second base…”, “Big or Small, Save ’em All”, “Hakuna Ma-Ta-Ta”. The other signs that stand out were all the “I’m running for…” signs that athletes wore. I saw so many “my mom”, “my sister” type signs. These signs really make breast cancer tangible, in that each of those ladies had been impacted in some way or another
- Amazing volunteers: If you’ve ever done a long-course triathlon, you know that volunteers make or break an event. I’ve got to tell you, the volunteers at this race are the BEST EVER. They blow the volunteers at Ironman Florida (which had the best volunteers I’ve otherwise ever experienced) completely out of the water. Everyone was willing to help. Everyone had a smile. The supplies were bountiful and always ready. In this respect, this race is flat out exceptional.
- Running on the beach: There’s something totally centering about running on the beach early in the morning – and that’s certainly the case with this marathon. The marathon runs for about two miles on the sand. It’s just a beautiful way to spend a few minutes, and one aspect that makes this marathon unique and really special.
- The Spectators: This is another aspect that really sets this race apart from others. There were spectators literally on every foot of the course. People were out having parties at the end of their driveways. Communities and neighborhoods came out. People held their own unofficial rest-stops and gave out everything from freezer pops to M&M’s to beer (yes, I saw a guy near mile 13 running with a beer in his hand). They decorated like crazy. There was more pink on this race course than I’ve ever seen in my life. There had to be thousands and thousands of folks on this course.
- The Survivors: No, this doesn’t mean the people who finished the race. The real survivors – people who have had, and overcome, breast cancer. There were breast cancer survivors who ran the race. I met a woman in the start corral from Buffalo, NY who had just finished chemo. She trained the whole way through chemo just so she could run this race. She proudly showed off her nearly bald head. Then there were the survivors who lined the streets. I’ll never forget hearing people on the sidelines thanking me for running the race. Usually it’s the other way around – racers thank spectators for coming out to watch. It was surreal to have people thank me for running. I was moved close to tears more than once. This race is for them.
All in all, this is an extremely well run race. For me, however, the intangibles define an event. It’s these intangibles that add to the experience – that make it an event that you’ll want to do again and again. In all honesty, this race has those intangibles. I highly recommend this race as a true destination marathon – and one that you should, in my opinion, strongly consider placing on your “must do” lists.