The Miami 50/50 is an urban adventure race that requires runners to team up with a partner and tackle 50 miles together from start to finish, totally self-supported. To add to the challenge, the course map is unknown prior to race morning. Runners receive course directions every ten or so miles along the way, at designated checkpoints. At 4:55 a.m. on race morning, RD Luis Cocco provided the first set of directions up to mile 11, this year’s first check point. At 5 a.m., 17 teams of two – male, female and coed – began the journey.
I love running through cities. The scenery, flavor, sights and sounds are invigorating; there’s so much to take in and experience every step of the way. The Latinx flair of Miami, from the pastry shops to the cheering shop owners, was a great source of inspiration as we navigated the city blocks. We coasted by elaborate estates and sea front landscapes in Coral Gables. In Wynwood, we ran through barren city blocks, the buildings adorned with dazzling graffiti and murals. There were stretches when not a soul was in sight – think blazing Miami 90-something degree heat and humidity – and areas, like South Beach, packed with crowds in bathing suits that required a bit of careful maneuvering to navigate.
Then there was the MacArthur Causeway, where I had my meltdown. Then and there on the bridge, I felt like crying, only I was too hot and there were cars rushing past us. My partner Chip was there waiting for me, so I knew that I had to find my way out of my mental spiral. We sat on the bridge wall for a bit, looking out at the water and I reminded myself how lucky I was to be out there.
Just when we were both feeling determined to get the race done, our debacle began. I worked on Brickell Avenue for some time, so felt confident when the directions called for us to take Biscayne Blvd to Brickell. Over the draw bridge we went. It was then that I began to second guess myself. Our next check point was at Alice Wainwright Park, a few miles away and I had never heard of the park. With the better safe than sorry mantra in mind, I decided to call RD Luis from Capital Grill on Brickell to ensure we were headed in the right direction. That’s when the misunderstanding occurred: he told me it sounded like we were going the wrong way, but we were only 1.5 to 2 miles off course. He said, “You need to head towards the Key Biscayne sign, and the dolphin statues. Then you will see the black gate and you need to walk into the park.”
Of course, I know the Key Biscayne sign from tons of nights spent running Rickenbacker Causeway. Chip’s phone was telling us all sorts of crazy things, like we were 8 miles away. We stood on the sidewalk debating for a while, asking whoever walked by if they knew where the park was. It was hopeless, until we intercepted David Castro and Adam Roth, another Miami 50/50 team, explained our situation, and they assured us that we had been going in the right direction. Chip was off and running to where we had been on Brickell, and I followed. When we finally arrived at the park check point, which was around mile 36 of the race, my watch already had us over 40 miles.
Dealing with adversity is part of the ultra mindset, and for me, often one of the most meaningful learnings. Races have taught me that even when it gets really bad, there’s always the possibility that it will get better.
The last 12 miles required a few twists and turns, some highway crossings, and then it was straight through on US1 till the finish line. The heat had not yet let up, and with all of the shopping centers lining the road, there were always cars either pulling into or out of the massive parking lots, so that we had to be vigilant at all times to ensure our path was clear. During those miles, I was plotting my life, debating how I was going to work my way out of the endless to do lists that had accumulated all around me. The stress and strain of running in severe heat and humidity has a way of breaking you down – forcing you to think about the basics, what you need, what makes sense and about how amazing your life really is – outside of the race.
When we were within a block away, RD Luis came to greet us, and we laughed and walked it in with him. My watch said 55 miles. I wasn’t tired or beat up when I finished. I was just glad to be able to stop, rest and relax. Days later, when I was back in DC and looking at the race pictures, I felt such deep gratitude for the ability to keep going, to keep pushing and for all of the growth that comes from each experience. Finding our way, spending time with friends, running amazing races like Miami 50/50, and looking around at life is a true gift. But so are the lows — they remind us of our power and ability to transition and keep going, one mile at a time.