by Shayne Benowitz
It was about 8:45 at the shed Saturday morning while I was packing supplies for the Ultimate Adventure when Ronan approached me and said, “Remember the 5K today? Do you still want to run it?” Slowly, it all came back to me. Of course, it sounded like a great idea around midnight the previous Saturday after a few glasses of wine at Martin’s, but now in the early morning glare with a full day of work ahead of me, I wasn’t so sure. I considered it for a moment, and told Ronan that I would do it. After all, what was a measly 5K? That was only 3.1 miles. So what if I hadn’t put my running shoes on in over 6 months, I could handle it.
I met Ronan near the Southernmost Point that evening for the Hemingway Days 5K Sunset Run registration. I was giddy at the sight of my cool race day t-shirt, and as I pinned my number onto my sports bra, it suddenly occurred to me that I had not participated in a formal race since I was probably fourteen. It always sounded like a good idea, and I enjoy running for recreation (even though I largely give it up during the sweltering summer months in Key West), but I had not raced in ages. Flashbacks of the Spirit Run in Newport Beach from elementary school, which I ran every year with my dad and my sister or the Jubilee Run in Montgomery, AL, which I ran with my track star best friend in high school came back to me.
We approached the start line with the other 300 participants and I did a few pre-run stretches while scoping out the crowd. A nagging fear crept over me, what if I finished last? These people looked like serious runners. Through the murmurings in the crowd, I heard people talking strategy, how they’d pace themselves, hoping to beat last year’s time. I thought to myself, I can run a ten minute mile, let’s finish this thing in 30:00.
The race started out north on Whitehead Street past the Hemingway House and the Green Parrot Bar. Within no time, Ronan was gone, and I had a nice pace going for myself. The course turned left on Southard Street, into the Truman Annex when Scott, Fury’s owner passed me with his daughter, Morgan, reporting that his son, Brooks, was way ahead. As I made my way through the Annex, I realized that the last time I passed through it with an organized group was last year’s Fantasy Fest parade. Suddenly, I felt wildly overdressed in my spandex and sports bra and a rum punch seemed like an appropriate thirst quencher.
We snaked our way through the Navy Mole, and a gorgeous view of the sun setting over Key West Harbor made for a picturesque run. I picked up speed on the turns and felt strong heading through mile two. Along the way, I noticed a little girl running completely barefoot, and thought to myself, only in Key West! The course turned back onto Whitehead Street for the final stretch, and I pushed hard using my last stores of energy to pass nearby competitors. In the final sprint, I felt every bit of the 86 degree temperature and 70% humidity of the evening. As the finish line grew near, I saw the clock ticking away 29: … My goal was in reach and I ran harder, but as I approached, the seconds kept ticking and 30:08 flashed before my eyes as I hit the finish line.
Ronan found me in the crowd during the cool down and we headed to the Southernmost Hotel for the awards reception. Ronan’s time of 21:00 earned him a second place medal in his age group. We kicked it by the pool with the other racers and snacked on fruit and, of course, plenty of cold, frosty beer!
Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer who is working on her debut novel. Shayne can be reached at email@example.com.