The first Sunday in February is the Sarasota Music Half Marathon. This is fast becoming a go to race in the Sarasota running calendar. Now in its 4th year, the race features a scenic course, over 20 different musical entertainers from local bands, high schools and individual musicians,
great medals along with an after party on the lawn of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall overlooking Sarasota Bay.
This year there were over 2,500 participants which did lead to some bunching up at some points – but more on that later. The temperature was great – low 60s. There was a bit of a wind to cool us down, so pretty good running conditions.
The first 5 miles of the course took us from the Van Wezel over the Ringling Bridge to St Armand’s Circle and back. If you’ve been to Sarasota you will know that we don’t have hills. The Ringling Bridge is pretty much it for doing “hill work” (we call it “bridge repeats”). So this was our only two “hills” of the course. Great to see the Sarasota High School band as we reached the crest of the bridge. As we headed out to St Armand’s Circle
the field was still pretty packed but it was a great time to meet your running friends as they headed back over the bridge.
Once back over the bridge, miles 6 and 7 took us along Sarasota Bayfront and the excellent soul sounds of Soul Sensations. Then it was down in to the neighborhoods of Orange and Osprey Avenues. We meandered through the neighborhoods for miles 8 through 10 before heading back to the Bayfront. One of the neat features of running down Orange Avenue any time is the Bubble Lady. Her bubble machine fills the air to the delight of passers by.
Another staple of the race around mile 9 is the free Girl Scout cookies. This year it was Thin Mints when I was passing by.
Miles 11 through 13 brought us back along the Bayfront to cheering crowds, once more under the bridge and then back to Van Wezel. A little disappointing this year that we didn’t go through Selby Gardens. This is a windy path through the botanical gardens which adds another dimension when you’ve been pounding the pavement for eleven miles. Ah well, can’t have everything.
After it was all done, we headed to the Van Wezel lawn for the after party. This is always a great place to catch up with friends and share experiences, injuries, etc.
Enough of the Chamber of Commerce stuff. How did I do?
Well, going in to the race I felt good. I was hoping to shoot for around 2 hours which would be a personal best. I am currently at 2:01:14 as my best half marathon time, but I had a good feeling going in. My plan was to start slowly around 9:45 minute miles and build as the race went on.
The start of the race was crowded. The organizers had added a 10K event to the half marathon and decided to start them both at the same time. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to start the two races separately since you had walkers, slow runners and fast runners all lumped together.
My first mile ended up being 10:06 which was still in my range but it took some extra energy getting through the pack and finding some space. I progressed through miles 2 – 9 as the field spread out, gradually dropping the pace and still feeling pretty good. I was hitting my stride at this point. After mile 9, I started feeling some hip pain which I was able to run through until Mile 12. Then I tried to kick it up a gear and had nothing there. At this point I was also heading in to the wind and, checking my watch, probably wasn’t going to break 2 hours. The job now was to finish as strong as possible. I struggled through miles 12 and 13 and got a little kick at the end, finishing in 2:02:11. A little slower than I wanted but a good time just the same. This was my fastest half marathon since November 2016 and definitely something to build on.
I headed back, listened to the 60s sounds of The Beat Down for a while, and then ran in with my wife, Marjorie, who finished a few minutes later. Then it was time to hit the after party to celebrate with the rest of the 2,500 participants. In my opinion, the food wasn’t as good as previous years, especially the lack of fruit. They even ran out of some food as we were being served. The entertainment was, as usual, top notch. We were relaxing on the lawn in the sunshine, listening to the sounds of Jah Movement.
My verdict on the race?
This is a fun race that I would recommend to any runner. The course is relatively flat and the entertainment is top notch. The organizers do a great job all round. Thanks to all the performers who made the run enjoyable. Anyone on vacation in Sarasota in February who wants to run the city – this is for you.
The elusive 2 hours will be broken – SOON!