Average marathon according to David, not much ambiance, monotonous countryside… Those are the first impressions of our athlete from St Martin after his fifth marathon, in Gulf Shores, Alabama…
Our “Crazy Dave” just finished 10% of his 2016 challenge, and let again his own words tell us what happened that day!
We just have one thing to say: Dave! You are really nuts, but we are all with you… Kudos and good luck next week for your sixth marathon in Death Valley… What a name!
“Run For(r)est Run” by David a.k.a. Crazy Dave
5:15 am. The alarm clock goes off. I think that I have not slept enough, and I am a bit tired. It’s my fault, I should have gone to bed earlier. Or maybe I was too excited because of the great time I had yesterday?
I take a packet of Immun’Âge®, eat a slight breakfast – cereal -, drink pure fruit juice, and then get dressed. I am trying my third – and last – outfit. 00Today it’s black and fluorescent orange!
6 am. I leave my room. It’s a little bit chilly out there but not too much. I get in my rental car – a beautiful Fiat 500 – and head towards Gulf Shores, Alabama, Forrest Gump’s home, 39 miles away. There is no one on the road. I arrive there in 53 minutes. One more hour before the race starts.
I check the temperature: almost perfect for a run, but for a fresh sea breeze… We’ll see. I keep warm in my car for a half hour, bring my bag to the gear check, relieve myself and then start warming up.
7:55 am. People sing the American anthem in the presence of naval air force recruits (Pensacola is the cradle of naval aviation).
8 am. The half marathon starts.
8:05. It’s our turn. There are not many of us: less than two hundred, I guess.
I start at about 9 min per mile. We go through a neighborhood, and after the first mile until mile 18, we run among pine trees on a bike path with small rises and endless straight stretches on a road surface that is hard on the shoes. I have the feeling to run a marathon through the villages of the Cap Ferret in France. Let’s go then for a hike through the forest! I keep my pace and reach mile 6 in 58 minutes.
At mile 8, the half marathon runners leave us and we are now really spread apart. Signs indicate that there are alligators in the area. As a matter of fact there are bayous on each side of the course. Not the right time to run off the track!
I hear a few “Go on, Crazy Dave,” “Congrats,” “Good job,” even though there are not too many of us running, and it really feels good.
At mile 9 we turn around and run long straight stretches. I keep the same rhythm and reach mile 12 in 2 hours, 1 minute – one minute longer than in Miami – but somehow it feels as if it took much longer. It’s normal as there is no one on the road side to encourage us, and thus no ambiance. I will take it easy on the second half of the race alternating running and walking some of the “break-the-legs” rises and the very long straight stretches.
To top it all, there is not enough stuff to eat and drink along the course. We only get Gatorade every two or three pit stops and there is nothing to eat even though there was a great buffet in the morning.
At mile 15, we get some sun but it does not get warmer as the sea wind is still blowing, and we sometimes get it in our face or from the side.
At mile 19, we leave the bike path and end up on the bike lane of a four-lane street. Only cones separate us from the cars, and it’s not cool. I don’t like it as the cars come from behind. They could easily swerve or there could be a madman who hates marathon runners (that has been seen before), and we could be seriously injured. This lasts for a terrible two-mile-long straight stretch (see picture), and we turn left for a little loop on a road that is completely blocked from traffic.
At the last U-turn at mile 23, we cross over the four-lane street to get to the final straight stretch toward the finish line that I cross in 5:22:28 under little ambiance: too many wind gusts on the sea shore. They place a medal around my neck, and I go to the finish area where I find a real ambiance, rock band, buffet, beer, drinks and also cheeseburgers and French fries! The race organization seems to have focused on the before-and-after-the-race events.
I drink a good beer, eat a little pizza, a few French fries, and then get to my car. It’s 2 pm and I have to return it before 3pm. It’ll be OK.
To conclude, it was a marathon in the country, but it lacked ambiance; the course was not flat enough to be speedy and had a harsh road surface. I found the run to be very long; it’s incredible how ambiance, course and road surface condition can have an influence on a marathon. But I need to stay mentally focused, and get accustomed to this type of rural marathon as I will run several of them this year.
I do not necessarily recommend this marathon unless you come here to eat crab, oysters or shrimp. Hiking for one hour on a bike trail through the woods at home will give you the same feeling!
However, let’s not forget to mention the great hospitality of the South and the kindness of the policemen.
See you all next Saturday in a totally different setting: Death Valley.
There might not be any ambiance, but at least the landscape will blow us away.