Heat and a Course Record at KEYS100

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By Bob Becker, RD

The KEYS100 100-mile race had 219 starters on May 18, 2019, the largest field in the race’s 12-year history with 134 (or 61%) official finishers compared to 80% in 2018. It was a very hot weekend with minimal cloud cover, and the percentage of finishers was a reflection of that. Given the heat, Brett Sanborn’s performance was all the more remarkable.

Brett Sanborn crosses the finish line on Higgs Beach, Key West.
Photo: Scott Richards

Brett Sanborn ran 2:31 at the Boston Marathon in April, and his fastest 100-mile time was 15:11 at Javelina Jundred two years ago. His strategy in the Keys was to run a 7:30 pace, but he averaged closer to 7:15 for the first 50 miles, completing that split in 6:01:29. Brett was motivated, in particular, by the Badwater 135 entries being awarded to the male and female winners of KEYS100, and knowing that Oz Pearlman, among others, was in the race and had the chops to catch him at any time. But not today.

“When I started reading the website, I was daunted by the crazy amount of detail on the course map and all the crew support locations, but it turned out to be exactly what my crew needed to get me through the race. I had never been to the Keys before and the race was a great way to experience it,” said Brett.

For years, the consensus had been that Mike Morton’s 100-mile record of 13:42:52, set in 2012, was invincible. But this year, Brett beat it by 12 minutes in an astounding 13:20:18. Second place finisher, Pat Hrabos, of Sarasota, FL, ran a very respectable 16:52:59, some 3.5 hours behind the winner. Third place went to Oz Perlman of New York in 17:22:22. Lori Michener of Lynnfield, MA, won the women’s race in 18:41:16.

Ever gracious, Mike Morton sent this note,“I saw the results of the race. It makes me happy to see great performances at the front and back of the pack. I’m super happy every time a record falls. It is progress of the sport.”

This race, like all ultras, includes dramatic individual stories like Ruth Stillwell’s. Ruth ran and completed the 50-mile race, intending to do so in a way that would minimize stress to her kidneys. That’s because just a week after the race Ruth is donating one of them to her cousin. Nancy Levene finished third female overall in the 100-miler in a time of 20:10:19 and donated one of her kidneys to her daughter a year ago. Karen Caruso finished the 50k race and has stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to her lumbar spine and caused compression fractures or, as Karen understates, “It makes running a challenge. You know what’s more painful than running with cancer that has spread to your bones? Not running at all.”

Big tent with a sweeping view on Higgs Beach just beyond the finish line arch. Photo: Tuan Nguyen

KEYS100, 50k and 50-mile awards presentation under the tent. Photo: Tuan Nguyen

The difficulty of KEYS100 is very often underestimated, as the race was intentionally designed to incorporate the sub-tropical May heat as an important component of the challenge. Fortunately, the scenery is spectacular. Runners cross 42 islands from Key Largo to Key West, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay/Gulf of Mexico on the other. The finish line, post-race celebration and awards party are all on the sand at Higgs Beach, with the turquoise ocean as a backdrop. If you haven’t experienced the Florida Keys, doing so on foot is a great way to go.

Congratulations to the 882 runners who successfully met that challenge this year, including 100-mile, 50-mile and 50k individual races, as well as the 100-mile, 6-runner team relay.

The 13th annual KEYS100 will be held on May 16-17, 2020. www.keys100.com

Results  100 Miles | 50 Miles | 50K

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