It is 5:52 am.
We plan to leave at 6:00 am.
Sid says "It is probably time to figure out what I am going to wear."
He finds his watch. “Oh, I probably should have charged this.”
I say, “Does it matter? You don’t actually save your runs anyway."
We grab the headlamp and the little flashing light we found in the basket of one of the rental bikes, a 20 oz Gatorade each, and two small packs of Fig Newtons for “energy.” We ride the 1.5M to the start of the Key West Half Marathon in the dark. It was just perfect.
The pre-dawn bike ride to the start was stress-free. Finding a spot to lock the bikes was easy. I drink my Gatorade to avoid having to hold it any longer than necessary.
The night before I discovered a one sentence note in the pre-race information that says proudly “This race will be cup-less again!” Well, I wasn’t ready for that. I had a brief moment of panic. I hate carrying anything in my hands when I run. I rarely drink or eat even on long runs. It takes me a moment but I know I will be fine. Sid was already half asleep by then and mumbles “I will carry my Gatorade.” Problem solved.
Once at the race, we line up around the 2:10 pace group with no actual plan. We didn’t really talk about anything except for me saying “I just want to run with you” and Sid saying "I just want to finish this thing."
Sid has been bothered by plantar fasciitis for about as long as I have had my achilles issue. That was his one concern.
I am hopeful that my body will find a way to race again as long as I don’t rush. But if I can't race "fast for me" again, I wont be devastated. I am running again and this is a success. I accomplished a lot as a runner when I did race well. I have no regrets.
At the start, Sid and I laugh about how much has changed since our first Key West Half back in 2007. It was three weeks after my last immunotherapy infusion that completed my cancer treatment. Way back then, the race was only 400 people. Sid paced me through bursts of running that I broke up with walks at each aid station.
That run was the furthest I had ever run in my life and having Sid with me made it a special experience. Today running 13.1M again will be the longest run I will have completed since Sept 2021. Running again with Sid made it feel just as special.
Over the next 16 years, Sid and I ran the Key West half at least 10 more times.
Like always, Sid “trained” his usual way. About two weeks before the race it occurs to him that he is going to run 13.1M soon. He decides to to run a long run of about 8 miles at most or maybe just 6. We will never know because he deletes every run he does as soon as the run is finished. He runs "long" declares his work is done and that his “taper” will begin.
Sometimes this is it. Do just enough to get out of an experience all that we need to feel content. Sid can run a half marathon anytime he feels like it. He isn't trying to PR. He doesn't care about his place. He just wants to finish what he starts and so far he has been able to do just that every single time. No stress. No drama.
My training for this was only slightly more invested. I peaked with two 12 mile run/walks, I rowed a half (which was a major accomplishment but it wasn't running), I rode my spin bike, I did some short runs, and that felt like enough for me to know 13.1M was not going to be a problem.
At 7:00 am, off we go.
The crowd is 2000 runners deep. It is 57 degrees, which apparently is the point where no one knows how to dress. Some runners were in coats and gloves. Others in sports bras and shorts. The range was outrageous.
The wind had calmed. The sun was up. It was getting warm. We run right past our hotel and decide to throw our outer layers behind a bush hoping they will be waiting for us when we get back. Once we shed a layer it was incredibly comfortable. Just perfect!
There are 25 local musicians along the out and back course that is mostly along the water. It is all that an island foot race should be!
Despite the cup=free announcement, the aid stations actually had some cups but out of principle, maybe an irrational sense of guilt, I don’t take any fluids. If I was seriously racing, I would have grabbed a cup of anything I could get my hands on but we were moving at comfortably 9:30 pace. I just didn't feel a need.
All is well until Mile 5.5 when Sid notices his Plantar Fascia getting sore.
By mile 7, we find ourselves running next to a guy who continuously and rapidly repeats “You are a Winner! Don’t give up! You are a winner! You got this! You are a winner!!!”… to everyone running the out portion (in our direction) to our back portion. He repeated this possibly every three strides. After a full mile of this guy right behind us, I knew we needed to do something.
I would let Sid decide. I wondered what Sid would decide to do? Would he walk a bit because his foot was sore and let the guy go? Nope! Instead, Sid picks up his pace and we more a little faster for about 2 miles. We make enough room.
I wonder how Sid’s foot is doing after that, but I will never ask someone to assess a problem in the middle of a race. Instead I say to him “Hey Sid, almost less than 5k to go! You know what? You are a Winner! Don't Give Up! You Go this!” :) He rolls his eyes at me. :)
After the out and back on the pier at Mile 10, I realized we had not eaten or drank anything yet. Sid says he doesn't need anything, but reports his foot is on fire. I say “Almost less than 2 to go”… We don’t stop moving.
Sid reminisces about how he used to be able to just run a half without training and have no issues. I comment that he seemed to have used that same plan for this one. He comments back that things are getting harder over the years. There are issues now. I agree.
We are definitely slowly growing old together.
We are ahead of the 2:10 pace group. I remind him that our first Key West half was about a 2:02. We might be close to that time. I know better than to say “Want to try to break 2” Sid isn't motivated by stuff like that. Sid is content with exactly what we are doing and so am I.
It is a beautiful experience to run this race once again side-by-side with Sid 16 years later feeling just as grateful to share his company as I did the first time we ran this far together.
The volunteers' cheers were welcomed. It seemed like despite the race being much much bigger, the spectators were really much less this year. This year, we hardly saw anyone course-side. There were some people but just not like in the past.
We hit the final stretch. Sid says jokingly “Do you want to sprint?” because he knows I am motivated by stuff like that. I say “Oh yeah, let's pull all the muscles that are still working for us in the least few strides” LOL. We cruise in at a 9:50 pace and finish smiling with nothing broken.
We get our metals and find some oranges.
I ask Sid if he has any bread left. He does. He ran the whole race with bread in his pocket waiting to see chickens :) He didn't see any so we look for roosters and chickens to feed, then find our bikes and ride back to our hotel. Our long sleeve shirts are waiting for us behind that bush. I am happy.
Then I ask “So, did you save your run?”
And he says “Yes. Yes I did!”
Shannon McGinn, MS, MA, JD, EDS, CWHC.