Sunday morning the group pictured above and about 300 others ran the 25th annual DeLeon Springs Half-Marathon and 5K. It is a nice, no frills race, held about 50 miles north of Orlando. The "Springs" are named for the famous explorer Ponce DeLeon, who searched Florida for the "Fountain of Youth".
Having gained six pounds over the Christmas and New Year holiday, I wasn't sure what to expect with my run. Mentally I was prepared and physically I had been training, but at a slightly heavier weight. The ride to the race took about one and one-half hours. Bob aka "Sponge Bob" was the designated driver who picked me up at my house then we picked up Jennifer and Denise. About six miles before the race location we stopped at a Wal-Mart Super Store for bananas, coffee and a potty break.
We arrived at the park and picked up our race packets. No long lines, no ID required. Being the 25th anniversary race, they had black long sleeved "tech" shirts with silver lettering, nice! After meeting other runners from Orlando, we relaxed, then warmed up. The temperature was in the high 50's and it was overcast, slightly damp. It was an 8:00am start, so we knew that as soon as the sun rose the temperature would likewise rise. We managed to get to about the 10-11 mile mark before the sun broke through the overcast. At that point it didn't matter.
The race course goes through a rural section of central Florida that does not resemble the "postcard" views. There are large stands of pine trees and cattle ranches. There were no spectators along the route except for the water stops and the cattle, who seemed to be less than interested in our race. Twice the Amtrak train between Orlando and Jacksonville went speeding past us.
I felt good from the sound of the starters horn. It is a "Champion Chip" timed race, but it is a "gun" time result. I doubt if it takes the last runner more than 30 seconds to cross the start line. I remember seeing the clock at mile one, 7:25 a bit quicker than I expected. Two miles, 15:30, three miles 23:23. I was concerned about averaging a sub 8:00 minute pace, but I continued to feel great. At six miles I was at 47:45. At nine miles I caught up to Erin from my training group, we passed nine miles at 1:13:00, just above an 8:00 minute pace. Although I had not told anyone, my time goal was 1:50, I was ahead of the pace necessary to achieve that. I took mile 10-11 a bit easier in order to have a strong finish. I reached twelve miles at 1:40, I had 10 minutes to run 1.1 miles. I ran strong and started a kick with about one-quarter of a mile left. I passed under the finish line clock at 1:48:45 a new PR, I had met my objective. I placed 3rd in my age group out of 14 and 49th overall.
Maybe I had found the "Fountain of Youth"!