ANSWER: Duval Street.
QUESTION: WHEN Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
ANSWER: During The 22nd Annual Key West Half Marathon.
~ On Sunday, January 19, 2020, the 22nd Annual Key West Half Marathon took place on the picturesque paradise that is Key West, Florida.
The last of the Keys and the most special of Keys. The infamous Key. The best Key…
Let me just tell you one thing and one thing only. If you love road races - if you love running - if you love fitness - if you just even merely love to move - then get your cute little tushy on down to the Keys in 2021 and RUN. THIS. RACE.
I can hardly believe it myself, but I was one of the participants. I partook in the 13.1 Mile Half Marathon, however, there was also a 5K race available taking place coinciding with the much longer race. For all those who deemed the Half to be maybe just a bit too much, too silly, or just too ridiculous of mileage to attempt.
I guess I fall in the silly and ridiculous category myself. And yes, I did finish - purely to get that highly coveted medal, of course. But it was not without a lot of self-discipline, patience, and maybe some sheer will power thrown in for good measure.
The race was a definite challenge for me, but one I knew I could do, even if I was very, very slow toward the end. And yes, there were lots and lots of chickens participating in the festivities alongside about four thousand humans. And those silly little creatures were a source of joy and good humor to me during such a lengthy physical task.
Taking place on the Sunday of the Martin Luther King long holiday weekend, this is quite a popular race in the Keys. And naturally a big race coinciding with a holiday means hotel prices throughout the island were on the high side. If this is something you may be considering for next year, I’d highly recommend booking your stay far in advance. We booked our room back in June of last year, and rates were already high. This weekend, there were ‘no vacancy’ signs all throughout the island.
And I registered for the race itself back on May 21 last year. We were confident that we were going to run it, so we were sure of booking our hotel back when we did far in advance, and just assumed the price would only increase as registration fills and the race date inches closer. And naturally as the holiday itself got closer.
We stayed at The Reach Resort Key West, a Hilton property. And after our arrival on the island, we checked in and then quickly made our way over to the Race Expo, which was open from 12pm-6pm on Saturday. The Expo took place for the two days prior to race day. And in case you are in the habit of registering for races and then forgetting all about it afterward, never fear. We got plenty of email reminders prior to race weekend with all the necessary details.
My husband and I have run many road races in our lives. Up north throughout all of Chicagoland, and in a large variety of cities and states. We’ve made races part of our travels many times prior to our move South, and we also finished many races in Florida since our move here. If I could leave you one reminder as you potentially prepare for a race in the Sunshine State. and one thing only about racing in Florida it is this: It’s hot here.
If you do run any race in the South, my best recommendation to you is to focus on yourself, your body. Basically, your entire self-care routine should take precedence over attempting any personal bests or world records you may be aiming for. The heat, and the blasting endless sun, alongside the potential for volatile weather events any day of the year here should be on your radar.
In Florida I have run races on highways, races on the beach, races late at night, and races starting before the sun even decides to grace us with its presence. At any and almost all of those times, it’s been hot. It can be humid. The “real-feel” weather is even hotter on the body. And the other issue is water. Right when you need water the most in your entire life, it may not be there for you…
Yes, that’s correct, we’ve even been to races where they run out of water. It’s not pleasant. So, basically, this is all a big and bold or even a small and subtle way of reminding you to take care of yourself and plan for yourself. And don’t rely on supplies to just be there for you if you need it because sometimes they do run out of things. Pack water and plan accordingly.
So, needless to say, when we got the final email reminder for the race, I was very pleased they put out there front and center and big and bold to us as a reminder: They basically told us this is Key West.
Yes, Key Freaking West. Have fun out there. And to NOT make this the race you choose to go for some personal best or some world record breaking time. Something I already knew from lots of previous experiences at these types of races. But others may not. There is always a new and inexperienced runner who may benefit from this. So there they put it. And hopefully that warning helps even one less person end up in a medical tent due to overdoing it, pushing it just a bit too hard, or to help remind them to pack an extra bottle of water or Gatorade.
So basically, have fun out there why don’t ya? Go slow and not care why don’t ya! Take in all the sights along the way. This is NOT a highway race. There is something cool to see and watch and hear each step of the way.
Back when I was in college, the men’s cross country coach, who is still coaching there, had a motto that’s now legendary. Al Carius, head men’s coach at division three North Central College in Naperville, IL, always, always says “Run For Fun & Personal Bests.” I believe that is simply Golden advice for all fitness levels and abilities. It should be fun. And it should be your race, and not anybody else’s.
And I really think the Key West Half Marathon is the perfect race to “Run For Fun & NOT Personal Bests.” Just don’t care about the time on the clock. Only care about how much pure fun and enjoyment you are having while that clock is running.
Either that, or maybe “RUM For Fun & Personal Bests.”
And that’s just what I did. I did the fun part, but I do like the idea of the rum part too. The entire race was a dream race for a road runner. The scenery alone is worth the entry fees and hotel stays and all the planning and traveling to get to that perfect little island.
The course is an out and back route. It starts at the heart of downtown Key West, ventures down the famous Duval Street, wanders around neighborhoods and then out onto the shoreline. Once hitting the seaside, there we stayed for miles upon miles. As the sun came up it definitely was kind of surreal. After all the races I’ve run over the years all over the place, in many states, there was definitely something special about running in my most favorite state, in one of my very favorite places, and watch the sun come up at the same time.
Morning is my favorite time of day. I’m up early, always before the sunrise, a race day being no exception. When I woke that morning in the 4AM hour, I was up with the roosters. And I must say hearing them crowing was an exciting way to start the special day. And gosh, were they crowing. They were loud, and they were hilarious. I imagined a little feathery creature sitting on our balcony starting off his day. Because that’s how close they sounded.
And somehow those quite loud little cuties didn’t manage to wake up the hubby, nor our sleeping puppy. But I tend to think that’s only because when our dog travels, it’s a hard life for a little Sheltie on the road. And she needs extra beauty sleep for the occasion. And the hubby, well…. I’ll just say he literally slept through Hurricane Dorian blowing outside our window for hours on end in the middle of the night, so he basically can sleep through anything. A little rooster chilling out on our 3rd Floor balcony having his morning coffee with some cream and sugar and singing a special tune at the same time would never awake my husband.
So me and the roosters got ready for the race. I had no idea I would meet my new feathery friends again all throughout the race course. But that I did. And after my hubby was all ready as well, we Ubered over to the start, which was about 1.25 miles away. I needed to save every extra step for the long race ahead of me and was glad I did by the end of the day. So Uber worked out perfectly and lots of other families did the same. I also saw lots of bikes and golf carts and taxis making their way to the start from our hotel and the surrounding resorts.
We left our room at 6:27am on the dot. Ventured to the lobby. And ordered our car. Uber arrived at 6:42 and we made it to the line with time to spare before the 7am start. Including my hubby going through bag check.
For experienced racers, all this last minute timing might sound a bit crazy to you. Usually with most of the bigger and longer races we’ve run in the past, they always recommend arriving far in advance, thousands of people filing through the corrals. And lots of standing and waiting enmasse for the gun to go off.
And that’s exactly why I chose this particular race to run my first long distance event in a very long time. There was no hustle and bustle ahead of time. It was more like calm, cool, and collected. Plus some relaxation thrown in for good measure. And bubbles flying through the sky. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about some good old fashioned chillin.
The gun went off right on time, at 7am on the dot. And it was off through Duval Street we went. There were lots of spectators and cow bells and cheers and bands and then some. To me, it was all so reminiscent of The Bix 7 Mile in Davenport, IA. Held every July, and even though I haven’t run it in years upon years now, The Bix remains one of my absolute favorite, and most memorable and special of road races.
Duval Street was packed with people. Lots of fun music flowing all throughout the course. A Jimmy Buffett Band was playing off to the side of me and yes, I did a double take, because he did look and dress exactly like my dear friend Jimmy.
There were horns and trumpets and full dj’s blasting fun tunes. And of course more cowbells sprinkled throughout.
Once the race route hits the shore it’s a very long out and back toward the airport looking at the ocean all the way, and then back to the center of town. I was fascinated with the jets coming and going next to me at the small airport. Taking off right in front of me, and flying directly overhead with the sun reflecting on the water. I was just absolutely fascinated.
Hitting the turnaround at approximately 6.5 miles, it was all downhill from there, don’t ya know…. Or so joked countless people on the sidelines as we passed.
By this point for me, the sun was really awake and I was glad I had put on layers of sun block before we left the hotel room. At about 8:35am I really felt the sun on my skin. (Me, going slow of course and still with plenty of miles to go.) I imagined my hubby at the finish drinking beer, and he soon would be.
And I ran another slow few miles, back toward town. I would say miles 7 and 8 were really slow, and I planned to walk from mile 9 onward. Like I said, I really just wanted the medal. And there ain’t nothing wrong with a good solid walk, ever.
So very, very slowly walking at this point for the last few miles of the race, I approached a turn on the shoreline. I thought we were headed toward town. Nope, not yet. They had one trick up their sleeve yet. We turned outward onto the vast and open sea. I walked out and back a very large pier before continuing onward. I had studied the race course but I guess I forgot about that part.
The mind starts playing tricks at that point. Oh my gosh, this is too far? An extra out and back! Shall we just stop and sit on this bench for the rest of the day? Yes, I’ll just sit here and watch the pelicans do their thing. Hmmm, sounds like a perfect idea to me… I thought of the old man floating on the old boat on top of the old sea… Was he out there now with the big Fish dragging him around all of creation? I think I saw him on the horizon!
And so, back to reality, I had to tell my brain to shut the heck up. Remember, you know better than what your brain tells you sometimes, so just tell it you are in charge. Even Hemingway and The Old Man himself knew that. I wanted that medal shaped like a compass real bad. I kept going.
Back into town and headed toward the finish, my husband, who had now finished his Half long ago, found me and kindly walked the rest of the way into the finish line with me. We weaved and bobbed throughout the Mallory Square area. At this time of the day, Key West was in full swing. People sitting having a late breakfast or an early lunch at outdoor cafes. A huge cruise ship was pulling into port and I was able to watch it dock as I walked directly past the huge beast.
Making the final turns into the finish, I was more than ready to be done with this very fun race. I came through the finish after walking the last 4.1 miles. Still lots of people coming in even though many hours had now passed.
I made it to the land of the medals. Finally I had my very own compass medal. I love it. It was worth every step. It was worth the push, the mind trying to drag me down and me defying it. It was all worth it. If you want to run a Half, but don’t think you can run the entire thing - definitely walk whatever you want. During those last miles I was surrounded by lots and lots of walkers. It doesn’t matter how you finish it, it matters that you finish. So get out there and walk it if you must. You’re still moving you know, and just moving is really the most important thing.
And at the post-race party, it most definitely wouldn’t be a race in the South without…. corn bread! And that’s just exactly what they had. Banana halves, and Gatorade, and cornbread. Back when my husband finished, they also had bagels with lots of cream cheese, muffins and coffee cakes. But I didn’t mind that was all gone. Cornbread and I happen to be fabulous old friends. And we had a splendid time catching up with each other and chatting on the hard ground.
We sat down on a curb and just did some pure chillin afterward. As there wasn’t much else I could imagine doing at that point anyway, so that all worked out quite perfect. In fact, the actual fact that I was sitting on a street curb in Key West, Florida, glancing at the beautiful sea before me, on a breathtakingly beautiful Florida winter day, reminded me that I really like doing just exactly that.
And if post-race beer is important to your post-race experience, then never ever fear. You know those races where they take a small tag off your race number in exchange for one, single, very small beer after 13.1 miles??? Nope, not this day. At this race - they were handing it out like it was candy. And no tag, receipt, or coupon necessary. Beers all around please!
As our adventure came to an end and our hotel was desperately calling our names, we finally called our Uber to drive us the 1.25 miles back to The Reach. And yes, I’ve never been so happy for the existence of Uber in my entire life than I was sitting in the back seat riding through town during that 1.25 miles instead of walking that final stretch for the day.
Overall, the Key West Half Marathon was absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was hard, it was a challenge, it was grueling. But it was also Heaven on Earth. Sometimes the hardest things you accomplish in life are the very best things in all of life on this Earth.
This race was all that and more. It was happiness. It was community. It was bubbles flying through the air. It was music playing live on the beach. It was the breathtaking sunrise down at the end of the world. It was the planes flying over my head so close I wanted to touch them. It was Jimmy Buffett singing to me as I went passed him strumming his guitar. It was all those gosh darn cute little chickens crossing the road right in front of my feet. It was all the roosters yelling at me to keep going, as they laughed at me while they sipped their morning coffees in lovely little Cuban cafes. It was simply - FUN.~
BEAN’S BONUS TRIVIA~~
WHAT TIME: Does The Rooster Start Crowing?
ANSWER: 4:58 AM.~~
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*Have you ever raced the Key West Half Marathon or 5K? Did you love it? I’d so love to know. Let me know in the comments down below:
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