Skidaway Island Half Marathon-Mar 24, 2018




ABOUT
Skidaway Island, located right outside of Savannah, is a small intracoastal golf course community that also has one of the best parks on the Georgia Colonial Coast Birding Trail, Skidaway Island State Park.  Located just 5 miles from the Start/Finish line of the Skidaway Marathon, this campground was a perfect compliment to the race weekend. With miles of trails along the intracoastal and into the woods, you will lose yourself in the harmony of birds song. Off road biking is also available along one of the trails that take you to an observation tower for an unforgettable sunset! A variety of birds were easily spotted on our venture: blue birds, red robins, woodpecker, herons, hawks just to name a few, as well as a visit by a deer! Looking for a little relaxation? Visit one of their library stands located in the park and kick back in a hammock! Forget something while packing? No worries, Publix is located right next door as well as a village with shops and restaurants.


COURSE
The Skidaway Island Marathon and Half Marathon is a small town, small field race, timed perfectly with the Springtime azalea bloom. The circle course keeps you in suspense the entire time as there seemed to be a new secret path around every corner. Golf courses, neighborhoods, intracoastal pathways, and lake views are just a bit of what to expect along the course, all draped with Savannahs well known Spanish moss, oak trees, and dont forget those azaleas! It really was like running in a secret garden!
(unfortunately I was so exhausted race day, I never took any pictures. All these are taken from the campground)



COMMUNICATION
You really couldnt ask for a nicer, more involved race director! Dan was constantly keeping us motivated on Facebook with video teases as the race approached. Emails were plentiful with all the right information. We even got to share our stories and plead for a specific bib number. These stories were shared on Facebook the couple of weeks leading up to race day. It was fun to get to know your fellow runners!

PACKET PICK UP
Packet pick up was at Dicks Sporting Good store about 15 minutes outside of Skidaway the day before the race.  Or a pasta dinner was offered at Wesley Gardens Retreat where you could pick it up there.

START
Parking was a breeze in the field of the Georgia Oceanography Institute just 5 miles from the campground. There were no lines for porta potties and the line up was a simple call out of the corrals and go. (Registration had you separated by times and your bib was placed in one of four corrals)
Pacers were provided for both the full and half marathon. A runners prayer was said and then we were off.

RESULTS
You really couldn't have asked for better weather. Overcast and making its way to the low sixties. I didn't get much sleep the night before and I couldn't get myself to eat before the race, but it had been since DONNA Marathon that I had run double digits so my mind and body were itching for it! I ran my normal 3 miles nonstop and then ran by feel the rest of the way. I felt great until about M9, where I realized I had only brought one Gu. I did not take the gel offered on the course and just stuck with the Gatorade. My legs got tight for about a mile or two, but was able to shake it off the last couple of miles and ran consistent. It was a beautiful course and because the scenery seemed to be constantly changing, the time flew by.

WATER STATIONS
The hydration stations were spaced out much further than normal, but there were warnings of this ahead of time. I decided to not risk it and carried my Camelpak. Full bottles and cups were offered at the tables.

SPECTATORS
Despite being in or near neighborhoods, there really are not spectators for this race.


FINISH
At the finish you were provided an energy drink, oreos, trail mix, bananas, and nature bar. After claiming your medal and swag there really wasnt much of a reason to hang out.

MEDAL
Compared to previous years, they really stepped up the quality of the medal, but I wish the medal, not the ribbon, would say the race name not the sponsor name



SWAG
Instead of providing a race shirt, your swag included an Orange Transition towel, which is very cool. You can use it as a car seat cover, a changing towel, or a regular towel.
Shirts were sold separately if you wanted one for $10
The race utilized RaceJoy for people to be able to track you and cheer you on and there were also
Free race pix posted on Facebook!

OVERALL THOUGHTS
This really is a race to lose yourself in nature. To let go of all the stresses in life, even take off those ear buds, clear your mind and listen to Mother Nature calling.

I highly enjoyed this race weekend. Knowing how involved, energetic, upbeat, and friendly the race director is, makes getting ready for the race even that much more exciting! The course is absolutely beautiful, but they also paid attention to every little detail to make it interesting and not just running down a road. Having the State Park right next to the race made it for a perfect race weekend to spend some time and enjoy nature. For a small town race with big scenery, make sure you have this one on your bucket list!



13.1-2:22
HM#83 

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 8 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

DONATIONS are currently being accepted by check only for April. Please mail to 
Donna Foundation
11762 Marco Beach Dr Ste 6
Jacksonville FL 32224
Memo-PinkFeet

11th Annual DONNA Marathon-Feb 11, 2018



ABOUT
The DONNA Marathon is the only National Marathon that raises money for breast cancer support and research. Monies raised from registrations and donations go towards the Mayo Clinic for genomics breast cancer research and Donna Foundation to help women in financial need during times of treatment. Fundraising is not required to race, but the reward of doing so is well worth it! (see Fundraiser Experience Below)

The DONNA Marathon weekend is so jammed packed with something to do for everyone in the family besides just the marathon! There is a 10k and 5k in Downtown Jacksonville on Saturday, a half marathon, marathon, and 5 person relay on Sunday, a Bobby Trap Challenge if you would like to do both days, and if that is not enough, there is a 110 mile that runs all day/night on Saturday and finishes with the marathon on Sunday!

Have a friend or family member that is not a runner?! That is OK!...there are endless opportunities to Volunteer all weekend as well and still be part of the fun! Can't volunteer or run? That's okay too, just step outside and join the thousands of people that line the entire course, dressed up, yards decked out, horns and banners spread out, music blared out, and yoot n yollerin at all the runners! That's right, this is one big block party of a race you don't want to miss!

This is also the most beginner friendly marathon course out there! Pacers are provided for both the half and full marathon and utilize the Galloway run/walk program. You have a 16 minute mile allowance for the full marathon and a 32 minute for the half! You Too can be a marathoner!



FUNDRAISER EXPERIENCE
If you register as a Fundraiser Experience, you pledge to raise a certain amount of money and you are rewarded with some great perks! Keep bringing in the donations, and you receive even more incentives such as:
-FREE RACE REGISTRATION! ...SAY WHAT?!
-VIP Packet Pick up at the Expo
-Fundraiser Hat
-VIP Start Line parking pass
-VIP Finish Line parking pass
-Fundraiser Experience tent at the Starting Line
-Fundraiser Experience tent at the Finish Line with catered food and drinks!
-VIP cocktail party at Marriott Sawgrass with Donna Friday night
-VIP Dinner at Mayo Clinic with Donna Saturday night





















EXPO
The two day Expo is held downtown Jacksonville at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. It is a pretty massive expo with all kinds of vendors from health fields, running stores, Mayo Clinic doing testings, local shops giving away goodies, photo shoot opportunities, boards to sign on and much more. There was even a grab bag of diamonds from Beards Diamonds and hand drawn caricatures by Kurtis Loftus this year! Packet pick up was a breeze for us this year, we had a pretty good system down with the experience of picking up 4 friends bags. But be prepared, the later it gets, the place gets busy! Don't forget to track down Donna herself as well as Jeff Galloway at their own booths doing meet n greets!

APP
The race used a new app this year via Active Experience, in which your friends and family can 'track' you as you run. Unfortunately there were some glitches with it not being compatible with Android to Iphone or vice versa. Previous years Race Joy app was so much better and more interactive with race cheers and pace alerts. Hopefully they will switch back.


COURSE
"26 miles of Smiles" is what Donna calls this race and she is absolutely right! I have run 82 half marathons in 34 states, and this is definitely the most Community involved race I have ever run! I just absolutely love how not only are the runners involved in helping raise money and awareness for breast cancer, but the neighborhoods really support it as well and do all they can! It really is like one big parade of celebration of how much this race has done for the Mayo Clinic breast cancer research department and The DONNA Foundation to help women who can not afford their treatments! Complete neighborhoods are decked out in pink with huge signs saying 'Welcome.' Survivors stand there and wave, saying 'Thank you for running!' People bring out their music and bands for entertainment. You can't help but smile the entire time!

The course starts at TPC Sawgrass and runs through four beach communities (Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach) before heading back to Ponte Vedra, but takes a turn over the Intracoastal to end appropriately at Mayo Clinic, where much of the donations support!

This is a flat course with just a couple minuscule inclines on the second half and then, yes, a bridge in the last mile, which makes it very representative of the breast cancer journey! When you are completely worn down and do not think you can go any further, you are hit with another challenge! You must put on your game face, look ahead to the future (finish line/Mayo sign in the distance) and stay focused, and you can get through anything! Before long, you have completed that struggle, and it is an easy homestretch to Finish Breast Cancer!

FUEL STATIONS
Water and Gatorade, GU, and first aid stations are in endless supply along this course! Besides what the race provides, SO many neighbors set up their own 'fuel' stations. You will find Popsicles, pbj sammies, bananas, oranges, candies, extra waters/gatorade, mimosas, beers, jello shots, (I think a friend even told me they found Fireball?!)You name it, its out there!





START
Fundraiser Experience parking was a breeze and we were right next to the entrance gate of the Starting Line Village! The Village was pretty big with lots of tents throughout giving food, drinks, sunscreen (its Florida!), gear check was handled by UPS and was a breeze, and there were endless amounts of porta potties! WQIK Djs were there for entertainment as we waited.



The race uses a Pulse Start, which means you line up wherever and with whomever you want, and they only let a certain amount of runners run at a time so the course does not get overcrowded. There is a new countdown and celebration (pink confetti) start with each group and your time does not start until your bib crosses the mat.



I lined myself up with my friends this year in the back, as I was not going for time and did not want my PR pacer to intimidate me.

GOAL
If you have been following me, then you know the past couple of half marathons, I attempted to run 13.1 nonstop, as it had been about 3 years since I last did so. I finally did it in January and continued the rest of my training without walk breaks, which I had never done before. Every day, every training run I was becoming a more confident runner knowing that I am finally consistently running nonstop. I had found the 'runners high' like never before. My lungs didnt hurt, my legs didnt hurt, my mind was clear, and my feet were in a magic rhythm of their own. I decided that it was finally time to attempt 26.2 miles running nonstop! I know that that was a huge goal and possibly quite unrealistic, but since The DONNA is the only marathon I run, this was my only/first chance to see how far I would go! Anything beyond 13.1 would be a new record for me, but I definitely went into race day saying and feeling anything is possible! Its like the quote, 'Aim for the moon. If you miss, you'll land among the stars!"

We had a brutally cold training season this year, which I love and run the best in, but as the race day approached, temps were definitely sky rocketing! I was already on an amazing high going for this extreme goal, I decided this was also the perfect opportunity to push myself even more....

...Ever since I began running, I would be so envious of the Elite females running in just their tank tops. I have always been so overly self conscious of how much stomach jiggles when I run, so I always said 'one day, when I get my stomach in 6pack shape.' Well, this past summer, I had had enough. All these years I let myself overheat, feel miserable like I am sweating to death while other runners around me seem so cool and confident in their bras. One a hot stagnant trail run, I said 'screw it' and I took my tank off. And it felt amazing!! I felt pretty comfortable because I basically was in the middle of the woods with just a handful of other runners and no spectators until the finish. I came home after that race and did my training runs in the dark in my sports bra all summer. It was just so absolutely freeing....and so COOL! I was finally not overheating!! I no longer cared about my stomach. It was more important to feel comfortable temperature wise so I could compete and run my best. So, early Fall, I ran my next half marathon in just my sports bra....my first true race where I had TONS of runners running towards me, seeing every aspect of my jiggle. But I just held my head high, smiled, and felt the cool breeze on my skin. Who Cares?! I am no longer holding back!

So as DONNA race day came and it was predicted to be upper 70s, I said, this is it. It is time. I ran The Inaugural DONNA 11 years ago saying 'one day' I will run 26 miles nonstop and 'one day' I will run in my sports bra. Well, that one day was going to be today! I am running DONNA in my bra and I am pushing myself the furthest that I have ever. I bedazzled my bra to read 'BADASS' because you know what, I finally found that 'badass' inside me! And it was appropriate that my friend showed up to the start line with some bright sparkly lipstick. Never had I ever worn lipstick for a race, but today was going to be the day!



RESULT
On the way to the race, we stopped at my newly laid DONNA brick at Oceanfront Park in Jax Beach that my boyfriend purchased for me after last years race (bricks are still being sold/paved for donations here). I thought it was appropriate to start the day reminding us of the quote I engraved on my brick "She believed she could, so she did!" Me, about to go on a distance adventure I've never done before running nonstop, another friend about to complete her first marathon, another friend that just received 3rd place the day before and wrapping up her weekend with the Booby Trap Challenge, another friend that really did not train much due to sickness and just life, but knew it was in her to 'be the finish,' and another that had been sick but still had the courage to show up (and PR!).



It was already hot the first mile and was forecasted for 75 degrees, sunny, and 100% humidity. Thankfully, being a block off the ocean most of the course gave us some awesome breezes throughout the day which always reminds me that Memaw is with me! It stayed overcast for the first 23 miles and then the sun came out in full force.

Most of us separated as we lined up to Start as we all had different goals. I had to remind myself, "slow and steady wins the race" which brought me back to my first marathon when I bought a shirt with a turtle that said that. The first 13 miles were the most fun I have ever had at this race! The sunrise was amazing as we took off and it took me a full mile to realize it was my new glasses that was making everything so PINK!



To stay slow and loose, I took the time to wave and say 'Thank you' to all the spectators lining the course! I was not watching my Garmin, instead I just ran by effort. I was amazed at how easy it felt. I appreciated all the decorations, banners, chalk designs, bubble machines, posters, and puppies! Oh there were so many puppies!

Around M9 I passed Donna and Tim and they boosted my confidence saying how great I looked-lipstick still on and all! Around M12, I passed Jeff Galloway, who if it wasn't for this man's run/walk program, I would have never had the courage to become a marathoner! I had then passed the half way mark! My previous half marathons that I had run nonstop, I walked through the water stations to drink. However, this time, I did not even do that! Even at 13 miles, I had set a new record for myself! I was feeling Badass!

At M14 I realized my quads were so tight, I was worried they would cramp up. I had flashbacks of a charlie horse I had in my hamstring one year that almost took me down to the ground, and I couldn't move for a few minutes. I tried to get out of my head and stop focusing on it, but the miles 14-17 are pretty isolate. Where did everyone go? There were not a lot of runners, nor spectators. All I knew was that my boyfriend was waiting for me at M17 with a bag of goodies that would hopefully help the cramps.  My quads started to feel like the muscle was going to rip open through my skin. I knew I still had 10 more miles and there was no way that I wanted to put myself in a position to not even be able to finish the marathon.

I finally made it to him and without thinking I just started walking. It was time. My boyfriend tried to motivate me to not walk, but it was okay. I was happy. I had made it past 13.1! Was it as far as I thought I would go? Probably not. Do I think I can go further? Absolutely! But was today the day in this 75 degree heat? Nope. And that was okay. I am still a Badass for having the confidence to attempt it. I am still a Badass for actually running 16.5 miles nonstop in my sportsbra!

He walked with me for a bit as I put on the BioFreeze and took my bag of goodies of chips, pickle, and bite of Snickers (GU always starts to make me nauseated around this point) and he then handed me a Kindness Rocks rock that he had found with a pink heart on it as he was waiting for me! I was overcome with emotion. I knew right away that my angels were with me and were proud of my Badass accomplishment!



He ran with me a bit as he made his way back to his car to head to the Finish Line and it took me back to my first marathon when dad and his friend ran with me at M20 to keep me going. I have had so much love and support in my life on this breast cancer mission the past 11 years!



Up next was M18 and my work aid station. Every year I get enough volunteers to man a water station, so that my employer donates a grant! I ran through the station to make them proud, and one of the girls yelled out 'You are doing it!" At first I was a little disappointed as she didnt realize I had already had a walk break and only made it to 16.5, but then I realized, "I AM doing it!" I have done 82 half marathons, 34 states, and raised over $66,000 for breast cancer!!!! When I say it out loud, sometimes I dont even believe it myself! Is this really my life?! Yes, yes it is! Ask me 11 years ago if I thought I would be a marathoner? I'd say hell no. Ask me even a year ago if I really even considered myself a 'runner' and I would be unsure, as I always take walk breaks. But ask me this year....and I will say "hell Yes! i AM a runner! i AM a marathoner! and i AM a Badass for doing this 11 year journey and raising so much money!" So I decided to run/walk the rest of the course celebrating it all!

I stopped at about three aid stations M20, M22, M24 to put on more BioFreeze. The cramps would subside for a bit, but would come back. "Slow and steady" said the turtle. The sun came out in full force around M22 and all I wanted was for it to be over. "Slow and steady" said the turtle. I made it to the bridge of the last couple of miles and I could finally see the Mayo sign in the distance, but I somehow had to manage to run a bridge with bricks for quads! I looked up and saw the top of the bridge once again jammed packed with Zeta sorority girls cheering me on. I smiled and knew after that, it was just a home stretch to my friends and boyfriend waiting for me at the Finish!  Slow and steady I crossed that Finish Line as a brand new confident Badass Runner!


























FINISH
The Finish was extra special for me this year....it wasnt just about me, but about my boyfriend finally being able to be part of The DONNA, after a year long, long distance relationship, he finally moved to Jacksonville. For him to finally witness this race; to see firsthand what this huge part of my life is all about. To share in the celebration of the race that has made me the person I am today. He has been so supportive and understanding in all my travels and training and phone calls trying to explain the race. It just finally felt right. To complete an awesome goal, cross that finish line, and be able to hug him to celebrate!


 We celebrated in the VIP Ruth Chris tent with mimosas and steak! He also came prepared with flowers and his own batch of freshly made shrimp for all of us! We then headed over to the Fundraiser Experience tent and celebrated with other VIP fundraisers with corn dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, and fries, as well as Fireball and beer! After our celebration, we made our way back to the Finish Line where we waited for our friend for complete her first marathon! It was fun to cheer on the very last runners, as the course was closing!

Afterwards, of course we jumped in the freezing ocean, then headed to the pool and hot tub for some relaxation. Ice cream cake was to be had in the morning! :)


SHIRT
Gender specific long sleeve shirts turned out great this year. I love the color and beach design



MEDAL
I didn't really know how I felt about the new medal at first when it was being advertised, being completely different from our previous years design, but once it was in my hands, I quickly fell in love with it and felt like a true gold medalist! AND IT SPINS! That just makes it that much more fun! I also love that they made the marathon medal larger than the half marathon medal.



OVERALL THOUGHTS
When I was first asked 'Why' I wanted to attempt running 26 miles nonstop, I knew right then, it was the perfect goal for me. The past couple of years, I have felt that something was just missing in my running. The speed wasn't improving (although I've been doing more technical courses) and I just wasn't feeling like a 'true runner.' (I know. I know. I'm ridiculous.) But we all have something inside us that drives us. But sometimes we lose that momentum, or even lose the reasoning why, or lose the understanding of what it really is that even drives us? When I would walk away from a race feeling defeated because I didn't PR, I was always reminded, just remember the 'real' reason why you are doing this. Yes, that is true I race to raise money and funds for breast cancer, but it wasn't enough. And I've learned over the years, running has so much more power in life in creating who you are as a person. I just knew something was just missing for me.

As I explored my irrational reasoning of not being a 'real runner' it took me back to my very first half marathon, the DONNA Inaugural. I went into it with a friend and we walked a TON. I mean a ton. I knew right away I had more in me. I signed up to run the full marathon the very next year. And I did it! I finished that first marathon with the 1x1 run/walk Galloway program. But I felt like I had more in me. So the next year, I decided to forget the 1x1 and see just how far I could run without walking. I ran 6 miles nonstop for the very first time ever! I had no idea I could even do that! But I knew right then, I had more in me. The next couple of years I finally worked myself up to run the full 13 miles nonstop. It hurt. I never really felt like I had more in me. So I settled. I said I would always do the run/walk for the full marathon.

It took 7 years of me doing the same thing over and over; of just 'completing' the half marathon every month. If I PRd, great, If not, 'Oh Well.' I justified it with, 'I finished.' I focused on speed and PRing the marathon and that worked for 7 years, and then the day came when I finally did not PR my marathon time.  I tried not to beat myself up but I couldn't shake this nagging feeling of (gasp) not being good enough. Was it really just the speed? I couldn't help but think there was more. Something was definitely missing but I didn't quite know what or why I felt this way or what I needed to do to not feel this way.

That is when I realized as I pushed myself again to run the half marathon nonstop this year, I had never changed the focus. For so long I just allowed myself to do the same thing month after month, year after year. I never gave myself a new challenge. I wanted speed. I tried for speed, but when it didn't come, I would just shrug it off. I wasn't feeling that adrenaline, that excitement to do something new. To have a new purpose of the race. It had been too long since I pushed myself as hard as I could, passed my limits, to see what I was truly made of. And so I did it. I set a new goal of running 26 miles nonstop, and although I did not reach that goal (yet), I crushed my old record and most importantly I found out what I was truly made of....a Badass Runner! I finally have reconnected with that Runners High and I can confidently tell myself, "You ARE Doing It Melissa!"




Being a 'Streaker' of The DONNA Marathon, I am highly biased of this race. HOWEVER, running 82 half marathons in 34 states, I am frequently asked what my favorite race is, and I honest to God can truly say, it is The DONNA. The crowd support of the course is beyond what words can describe. It is as if all the angels come together that one day and say Thank You for everything you do! It is an experience you will never forget!



Marathon #9-5:17
Donations are still beimg accepted!! Show your support with a $16.50 or $26.20 donation today! Www.crowdrise.com/pinkfeet















Welcome to PinkFeet! 
Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  






Who is Pink Feet?






3rd Annual-Shark Bite Half Marathon-New Smyrna Beach, FL-Jan 14, 2018



This was the 3rd Annual Shark Bite half marathon and 5k located in New Smyrna Beach, FL produced by Red Pointer Production. Ive been following this race since its inception and it just keeps getting better! There were 943 half marathoners and 770 5kers.

I was supposed to camp for just $16 only 20 minutes away at Lake Ashby, but as race day drew closer, the temperatures dropped drastically. (de ja vu from MS last month?!) This is not an inexpensive lodging type of town, so I had to fork over 100x what I was expecting to pay and got an Airbnb (receive a $40 credit with this link).....but boy, did I luck out! The apartment I rented was just a block from the race start, right smack in the middle of all the restaurants and shopping! I didn't have to use my car the entire time! New Smyrna is pretty pet friendly so I was able to have dinner with my pup with oceanfront views at Ocean Breeze Grille! (But pay attention, there are no dogs allowed on the beach!)

PACKET PICK UP
Me and the pup drove down, just an hour and half from Jacksonville, and arrived perfect timing for packet pick up at New Smyrna Brewery Co while a Classic Car Show was taking place right out front! They had 2 vendors there as well selling stickers (which is weird because the race gave you one for free) and socks. I would have liked to have seen more fuel type options, although they did have a packet pick up on Friday at a running store.



START
Being so close to the Start, I stayed warm in the apartment until the very last minute. It was 39 degrees and windy! I do know that parking was basically just where ever you could find it in the city. Looking at the porta potty lines last minute, they didnt seem that bad. The half marathon started right after a nice viewing of the sunrise over the ocean and then the 5k was 15minutes later. With a pirate as a race announcer, and runners dressed up as sharks, this race instantly put you in a good mood!



COURSE
This is a loop course with the Start and Finish located at the Flagler Boardwalk parking lot right next to the beach. We ran straight through downtown New Smyrna Beach, over a small bridge, through Historic New Smyrna, past beautiful homes along the intracoastal, then over another larger bridge back to the beach with the last two miles on infamous A1A.

WATER STATIONS
The volunteers at every station just were not prepared fast enough. Each station was barely set up and they were more busy filling up the cups, than passing them out. Thankfully, it was not bad enough to have to stop and wait. GU was passed out at M8.

SPECTATORS
There are not a lot of spectators despite being in prime location for them, probably because the race is fairly new, and it was super cold.

RESULTS
I went into this race wanting it bad. Last months attempt at the MS Gulf was a flop when I had some weird pains from my back to my toes. I'm in the middle of training for the DONNA Marathon, and knowing my times, I knew I wasn't going to PR (2:14) this race, but I wanted to attempt a nonstop half marathon, as it has been about 4 years since the last time I tried.

I have never been a runner my entire life. Even as a kid, doing the 'mile' test in grade school, I was always last and couldn't even run 1 lap around the track without stopping. I've always been embarrassed at how, even though I was skinny as a kid, I just could not breath when I ran. When The DONNA came around, I learned about the Galloway program, where you run for only a short amount of time, then take a walk break, and repeat it consistently throughout the race. The theory is, your body recovers so much quicker, leading to less injury. And the truth be told I've realized over the years, you can actually run Faster doing a run/walk than just a nonstop run. (Jeff Galloway actually qualified for Boston doing this!)

For the past 11 years I pretty much have been a 'wogger' (walk/jogger). I have pushed myself 3 times to run the half marathon nonstop, just to prove to myself that even though I take walk breaks normally, that I am still a 'Runner' and I can do it! Well, the past two training weeks before race day, I just felt like not stopping. When training alone, I usually only do a mile nonstop as a warm up and then start the run/walk. Well, one day I just decided to keep going. I ran 4 miles nonstop and it felt amazing! It was like my legs/feet had a mind of their own. They were in a rhythmic pattern that felt so good, I felt like I was floating on air. And amazingly, I was able to breath normal maintaining the pace! Anxiously, I tried it again the next day, and the next, and the next. And each day I experienced that same meditation. My legs were in a rhythm, my mind was clear, my breath was solid. Did I finally discover what a 'Runners High' really was? So going into the Shark Bite half marathon, I knew I wanted to complete the race nonstop.

I felt amazing the entire race....bridges and all. It was a beautiful perfectly weathered race day....39-49 degrees, sunny, breezy only at the coast. My lungs not once begged for air (I probably could have pushed it more) and my body never said 'You can not do this.' I stayed slow and consistent and found that runners high. There were 5 water stations and I did allow myself a few steps of walking at each as I chugged a couple sips. At about M10 my knee started to ache, but nothing like the month before. I knew it was just my body adjusting to this new mentality of nonstop running. It dissipated in about a mile. I like to call those pseudo pains. Its a mind game where your brain tries to convince you, it is all wrong, you shouldn't be doing this, and you must stop. Pushing through something like that and coming out on the other side is an amazing experience.  The last two miles were in strong cold head wind and it was a bit miserable and slow. There was most definitely some yelling at myself, but I did it! I crossed the Finish line and ran a half marathon nonstop!

I grabbed my medal and ran (yep, more running) back to the apartment to change into dry and warm clothes and grab the pup so we could properly celebrate oceanfront!

FINISH
The Finish Line party was fun. Not only did you get a medal, but you received a Shark Bite pint glass for your New Smyrna Brewery beer! Located oceanside, you could kick back and enjoy the view (if only it wasn't so cold this year! Last year it was warm). They had a mechanical shark to ride for fun. There were vendors available to shop. They had pizza for the food. The only thing I could think of to add on, would be an actual band.



SHIRT
Gender specific cotton blend shirt. The color is pretty, the design is consistent between glass, shirt, and sticker, and the sponsors on the back are not obnoxious.

MEDAL
Good size, heavy medal and even has engraving on the back

AWARDS
The top 10% Finishers in each age group received a cool truckers hat.

Something I did not really see, and they even admitted it wasnt advertised well, is a Team Challenge for this race. Not only did the winning teams get a huge cool plague, but they also received a cash award! Keep your eyes peeled for this again next year!

PICTURES
FREE pictures loaded on Facebook! Need I say more?

NEW SMYRNA BEACH
I would have stayed longer to explore, but this was a super quick in and out visit because of the cold and I had to get back home to dad to watch the Vikings kick butt!

However, I did do some research and will most definitely be back to visit.....
Accommodations-There is a brand new Springhill Suites located oceanfront-this seems like an awesome place! Black Dolphin was a super cute little hotel I kept eyeing, but just out of my price range.
To Do-Smyrna Dunes park is your pet friendly beach area with trails to explore, New Smyrna Surf Museum, Norwoods Treehouse and Bar

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed this scenic race. It probably helps that I had a fantastic run as well and I am a biased beach girl, so anything at the beach is usually up my alley. However, Starting and Finishing at the beach is always a plus! Yes, there are bridges, but that just make it even more beautiful with the the intracoastal waterway. For a pretty inexpensive registration, they provided extra swag, and a good time! New Smyrna Beach is a super cute small beach town with friendly (and pet friendly) people!

13.1-2:22
HM#82

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

2nd Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast-Dec 10, 2017



This was the 2nd Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon consisting of both a full and half marathon with a 5k the day before.

I came across this race last year after I was already signed up for a December race, so waited an entire year to come! I was super excited for a super flat, scenic, coastal race in prime running weather time of year and all of their gear/logos were super cute!


TRAVEL
I drove straight across from Jacksonville to Biloxi. It was a super easy 6.5 hour drive with the pup! We arrived in perfect time for the last of the snow and sunset! Mississippi Gulf Coast-one of the few places you can watch both sunrise and sunset over water!



ACCOMODATIONS
I had planned to camp at Buccaneer State Park which has tent spots right along the coast, however, the weather had another plan. Super cold temps came in that week and snow actually made an appearance (a rarity) so I had to cancel the camping and splurge on a room at the Hyatt Place. The Hyatt Place is the newest property in the area and was absolutely perfect! This pet friendly hotel has awesome ocean view rooms with a heated pool/hot tub, and complimentary breakfast! It was also only .7mile walk to the Start Shuttle/Finish area.







EXPO
The Expo was held at the Convention Center, where unfortunately the city did not waive the parking fee of $5. Thankfully, the race director advised us of this and told the secret of parking on the main street and walking in if you wanted to save. There were enough vendors to get your race supplies and I picked up a super cute Soak up the Run tank top!













COURSE
The point to point course runs right along the gulf coast from Gulfport to Biloxi with constant coastal views of sugar white sand, a gorgeous sun rise, beautiful art sculptures, and even a Christmas tree on the beach! For most of the course some people (me) ran on the wide sidewalk/boardwalk and others on the partially closed road. Because the Finish is across a busy street, the course does take you off the scenic path the last mile, goes up a highway ramp (not too bad) and then turns around to finish at the MGM Park.

PARKING/SHUTTLES
Because it is a point to point course, shuttles are used to get to the Start. There were two locations, one at MGM Park and one at IP Casino. If you used the IP Casino on, there was another shuttle at the Finish to get you back if you didnt want to walk the mile. The Start Shuttle was pretty far since its an out and back course, about 15+ minutes for half marathon and 30+ minutes for full. The half did have an option to park at the Start, but no way to get back to your car after you finished. The full did not have any parking.


START
The most disappointing part was the race started right after sunrise and the Starting Line was on an open road, so you really could not get across the road ahead of time to watch the sun rise over the water. I would suggest starting the race earlier so we can run with the sunrise, or to have the shuttle drop us off on the beach side so we can watch the sunrise.























WATER STATIONS
All of the stations were set up properly but one. One was completely empty. There were a ton of stations along the course, so there was still plenty of fluid. Fuel was also passed out.

SPECTATORS
Im not sure if it was because it was so cold, or the race is kind of on a busy street, but theres not a lot of spectators cheering you on for this race.

RESULT
I went into this race super excited. It has been a while since I have had a PR as a lot of the courses I have ran lately have been challenging or hot. As the temps were dropping approaching race day, I knew this was going to be 'the one.' A super flat scenic course in cold temps! I slept and woke feeling awesome. I even had a great and motivating conversation with a girl on the shuttle talking about my goal and The DONNA.

I felt great (but cold... no freezing) at the Starting line. I ran almost the entire first mile still wearing a foil blanket and had the perfect 'warm up' mile....not too fast so I wouldn't cramp....then each mile after improved faster and faster. Those first few miles I felt wonderful. It was such a pretty day and my body felt good, my lungs felt good. About mile 4 I realized the times were a little slower than I needed for a PR. But I was still okay. It was a gorgeous race day. I had not stopped for a walk break yet because it felt so easy to run in this cold, so decided I would shoot for my back up goal of running the entire course, which I hadn't done in a couple of years either.

About Mile 6 I suddenly got a sharp pain in my right knee. I was surprised as I know knee pain. Usually it comes and goes and its more of a mute pain. But this was sharp and it wasn't going anywhere. And it was more on the outside of the knee than top or bottom. I then starting feeling my lower back aching. Again, Ive felt that before, but it was weird it was happening with the knee. Then I realized my right foot was kind of numb. But its cold out....its got to just warm up!

I pushed through that mile, slowing down, really not wanting to stop, but by mile 7, I had to take a walk break to see if the knee pain would go away. To my surprise it hurt transitioning from running to walking. Devastated I missed out on both goals, I tried not to think about that and was confused on what I was feeling. I tried to do the run/walk. I would run until I would feel my knee again, then walk to make the pain go away. That worked until about M10 when the pain just wouldn't leave no matter what. I was getting scared. It is 2 months til DONNA marathon and I can NOT be injured for a full marathon! I made it to about Mile 11 when it still was not going away and I just lost it.

'Why was this happening? Why am I still not good enough? I am in year 7 of doing a half marathon a month, why am I not getting faster/better? I have not PRd in 2 years! And I didnt even PR the DONNA last February like I do every year! Today was supposed to be the day! Today was supposed to be my confidence booster that I still have what it takes. That I can prove to the world that someone that never could run one lap on the track can now run half and full marathons and improve every year! How am I supposed to motivate people if I cant even improve myself? Whats the point of people following PinkFeet if Im so pathetic I cant even PR? and now, what, I might be injured? 7 years Ive gone with no injuries. I only have 3 more years of this mission. Why is this happening now?'

I was a mess. I mean, hyperventilating sobbing, down right mess. I walked pretty much the entire last mile (it was an incline and decline, which didnt help the knee). My mind had given up, my body had failed me. I got to the Finish line stretch in the Stadium and trotted across the line, head hung low.

I got ice for my knee, and texted my friends and called my boyfriend sobbing away about how Im not good enough and thankfully they all slapped me back into reality.

"Missy, Nobody Cares! You are the only one that cares about the numbers. That is not what motivates people. You motivate people because you are out there doing it, and you never give up. You keep going and traveling the world, mostly alone, and you don't care what others think. You do it because you want to! And you are making a difference raising so much money for breast cancer."

Why do we put such Expectations on ourselves (or even others)? Expectations is an imaginary perfect world that only exists in your head. The world is not perfect. When one part of your expectation does not pan out, you are disappointed. If we just stop and appreciate and enjoy what is actually happening right in front of us in that very moment, we could feel amazingly blessed instead of upset. The race day was perfect! It was fun and gorgeous and easy to run along that scenic flat coast! I had run a distance nonstop that I have not done in a long time and even at close to PR time! If I hadn't gone in with an expectation, I would have walked away from this race proud and happy, even despite the knee issue. (which thankfully subsided the next day)

Why do we think that 'Best' means 'Better'? What does Best really relate to? Times, Statistic, People, the Past? Again, we are comparing and setting expectations when we relate Best to being Better. The problem with Best is the world has to be aligned to have those perfect conditions, many of those out of your control, and there you go creating Expectations again. Shouldn't Best really be a feeling inside? If we look at Best as the effort we gave that day, mentally and physically and appreciate what just happened in that moment, then we can walk away feeling proud and accomplished. Every day, every race will be different, but your insides will tell you if you are giving it your all. We are so lucky to be out there even running at all. We had the encouragement to sign up for the race. We had the motivation to train and show up at the Starting line. And we had the determination to finish the Best we could for that given moment. Best should come from your heart. Maybe if we didn't put Expectations on Best, we would always be doing our Best in one shape or form.



FINISH
The race finished inside the MGM Park (a baseball stadium) broadcasting your epic finish line crossing on a jumbo tron! The vendors are located upstairs so you can have views of runners on the last mile. Your bib came with 6 tabs which were to be redeemed with the vendors, however, only the beer station was checking them off....so, basically you could have had 6 free beers! Super yummy BBQ sandwiches, chicken pasta, and gumbo were also provided! There was plenty of space to relax in the stands, or sprawl out on the grass! It was a beautifully sunny and warm winter finish!



MEDAL
I love the medal, but seems the stained glass could either be more see thru in the sunlight or brighter colors.


SHIRT
The gender specific shirt is made of some awesome super soft material and not splattered with sponsors logos all over the back.

























THINGS TO DO
Mississippi Gulf Coast is filled with cute small beach towns. This race is lined perfectly to experience some Holiday Spirit, especially the Winter Lights at Gulfport. Because it was so cold, the beaches were completed empty, but they were cute because there were swings and bonfire pits you could use! (note, you have to get a permit for the bonfire pits). If it was a tad warmer, I had planned to visit the Davis Bayou State Park. Casinos are located in Biloxi if you want to try your luck


OVERALL THOUGHTS
I love any race that is scenic. It just makes the time go by that much faster! And I am a total beach girl, so I may be a little biased on this race. However, for it being only the 2nd Annual, I believe this race knows what they are doing! With that said, there was some confusion on the full marathon distance and the course ended up not being Boston certified. The full and half had the same ending, and my Garmin was right on par for the distance, so it had to be something about the first part of the full course. With that said, I think the Mississippi Gulf Coast half marathon should be highly recommended. It is easy to rent a beach house pretty cheap this time of year and kick back and relax, or if you like the liveliness of entertainment, the casino hotels will fill your desire.

This race was definitely a life lesson for me. I went into this 10 year, run a half marathon a month while completing the 50 states mission without any expectations at all. Shoot, my original goal was to do only 1 year of half a marathon a month. But it just kept going when I realized I could travel for races! I still never really put expectations on myself. (of course I secretly hoped I would magically turn into a Kenyan and be able to qualify for Boston...I mean, who doesnt?) The 10 year goal just materialized when I realized the trend of how many states I could afford a year. The $100,000 goal just materialized when I saw it could actually be realistic. I've never really put too much pressure on time, because to be honest, I am still just amazed to this day that I used to be a 15 year smoker who never could run 1 lap doing the mile test in grade school. I've naturally progressed in my times over these 7 years, but I still go to every race trying to give it my all, and trying to find the fun and beauty in every run. It doesnt matter about the times, or even the medals. It just matters that I did it and found something to enjoy about it. I lost that feeling this race. But these weeks since, I have regrouped, refocused, and realigned with what is really important in life, which is a positive outlook on all outcomes. Live life through your the love in your heart. I have been so blessed to be able to do this mission and I have loved every single moment of it!

13.1-2:25
State #34
Half marathon #81

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.