It’s always been something of a tragedy that the city of Marathon has never hosted a marathon, or half-marathon running race. Now, there’s balance in the universe.
On Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 a.m. a group will take off from the parking lot of Keys Strength & Conditioning (Beall’s Outlet), heading east toward Key Colony Beach and around its streets, and then back to the parking lot. It’s a two-distance race: Runners can choose the 10k (6-mile race) or the half marathon (13.1 miles).
There will be a sheriff’s deputy at the Overseas Highway and Sadowski Causeway to help runners cross the street safely. At the start of the race, runners will wear masks until the field spreads out.
The race is the brainchild of Lara Rutskin-Martin and Terri Swanson. Swanson, a long-time Keys homeowner and now a full-time resident of the Middle Keys, needed to run a virtual race to keep her Miami Marathon & Half Marathon streak alive. She and about 70 other runners have competed every year since 2003.
“To keep our streak alive we need to do a virtual half marathon. I told Lara about it and she took it and ran with it. I’m just along for the ride,” Swanson said, laughing.
Swanson is a certified running coach, and a nine-time Boston Marathon finisher — a handful of times she’s landed in the top five for her age group. That’s impressive. Swanson is also a trainer at Keys Strength & Conditioning. Ruskin-Martin founded the running group, Hapynkeys Running. It’s a fluid group of mostly women who meet most Saturdays for a fun run, sometimes themed. The 10k/half marathon in Marathon is the biggest endeavor yet.
“You know me, always thinking!” she said. “This is the time of year that runners do their half marathons or marathons and many have been canceled. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do my own.’”
Key Colony Beach gave the go-ahead just last week and so the race is on. The bibs and finishing medals are ordered. As of earlier this week, 35 racers have paid the $10 entry fee to cover the sheriff deputy’s salary who will maintain order at the intersection of Overseas Highway and Sadowski Causeway and the portable restroom facilities. The race will be timed.
Rutskin-Martin said many businesses have stepped up to sponsor the race, and volunteers are coming out of the woodwork.
“This is something to motivate ourselves for the beginning of the year,” Rutskin-Martin said. “I’m super excited.”