She ran a marathon Saturday. It was a good one. She enjoyed the course, learned about a part of Florida she hadn’t visited before, and skipped in under 3:40. Still, it wasn’t her plan to write about it.
‘ I write about running, but this isn’t one of those weekly race report blogs,’ she thought. ‘Who wants to read what I was thinking about at mile 16? (Even if I could remember, which I can’t.)’ Besides, she’d run over 160 marathons in the last dozen or so years.
Then she noticed the race website had invited her to like it on FB, so she did. A post there mentioned the local paper hadn’t given the race much coverage. That was all she needed.
Upon hearing the name Tomoka Marathon, you are forgiven if you are unable to place it geographically with your first three guesses. A savory dish of swamp cabbage if you can, as Tomoka is an area near Ormond Beach, Florida. Tomoka is a corruption of Timucua, the indigenous people who once lived in Volusia County. That’s on the Atlantic coast, south of Jacksonville and near the Daytona/Orlando area.
The course is on “the Tomoka Loop,” designated as one of Florida’s Scenic Highways.
As I tripped along (it was pre-dawn) the first several miles, not only did I appreciate the promised “old growth forests,” I surprisingly was reminded of some Montana and North Dakota marathons I’d run. Not that those states had palm trees, but the straight expanse of solitary road stretching as far as I could see was reminiscent of rural races.
We fell into a quietly companionable single file, soaking in unobstructed vistas of two rivers, barrier island dunes, inland creeks and marshes. The simple beauty of the land inspires even as it insidiously intimidates. No thronging crowds; the occasional supporter with her lone cowbell encourages, while inadvertently underscoring the enormity of the task at hand.
Birdsong accompanied us between the welcoming cheers of the dedicated volunteers aiding us all along the course. So glad I decided to run without earbuds and really experience the unique terrain and atmosphere here. At an out and back well past the midpoint, around miles 18-20, we got to see one another and caught up with some of the half marathoners.
We knew what lay ahead. Visions of reveling in the beauty of the finish area filled our heads. The race starts and finishes amidst The Casements, a winter home of the Rockefellers and now a public cultural center.
To earn it, however, there was the matter of a bridge. The one that you had to surmount just after passing the 25 mile marker.
Along with seeing to all the details that make a good marathon great, the RD had a spirited group of pacers for us. Just in time, Daniel Bucci pulled up alongside me on the climb and urged me onward. Soon we were rolling downhill, around the bend, under the bridge and across the finish line to the celebration. And it, like the race, did not disappoint. We left with a true appreciation of the race motto on our beautiful finishers medals: “Live your life well.”