As someone who does not fit the description of a morning person, there are few things that entice me to get out of bed before the sun rises on a weekend. But at 6:15 a.m. on Feb. 2, I find myself at the starting line of the ING Miami Marathon & Half Marathon. More than 18,000 people join me before dawn, each lending their energy to a human sea that pulses with emotion and anticipation under dark skies punctured by street lights, an undulating American flag and adrenaline-pumping music.
The race begins in front of the American Airlines Arena and crosses over to South Beach via the MacArthur Causeway. As we cross the bridge, grayish clouds shift overhead and the sky is dimly lit by the lights of the enormous cruise ships to our right, reflecting in the water below. As we reach South Beach and veer left to run north along Ocean Drive, the sun is begins to send its rays across the horizon. The only music here is birds calling to one another, and the run is quieter and peaceful.
As the sun rises higher in the sky, we leave Ocean Drive and continue north through residential neighborhoods of mid-beach, distracted from the sensation of tiring leg muscles by the eye candy of lovely houses. As we turn west and head back to downtown across the Venetian causeway, supporters on the sidelines offer additional distraction with signs like “Run like zombies are chasing you” and “26.2 miles … because 26.3 would be CRAZY.” We reach downtown, and the final miles of the half marathon course take us on a winding route through the heart of the city (those running the full marathon continue on to Coconut Grove). Crowds of bystanders wait for us, cheering enthusiastically. By this time our legs are heavy, muscles are burning and the race becomes a battle against ourselves, a fight to push ourselves to our limits.
When we cross the finish line in front of Bayfront Park, you are rewarded with the priceless, exuberant sensation of accomplishment and triumph. I can’t speak for all 18,000 people who ran or walked this race, but for me, that sensation is well worth the 5 a.m. alarm bell.
Sonya Stoa, International Sales Director for Vogue International (the hair care company, not the magazine), relocated to Miami two years ago.