It only took me 1 hour 15 minutes to drive to Live Oak, even driving in the wee hours of the morning in utter darkness and setting the clocks ahead one hour. It’s good I had my Garmin with me, along with the Google directions (which were not completely accurate but at least gave me an idea of the route numbers). I had a flashlight with me so I could shine the light on the directions when I needed to. But all-in-all, it was an easy drive.
Turned into the Ranch just before 6 am and there were people setting up. I could not see a thing there, way out in the country, so one of the youth volunteers came with me to show me where to park – it was easy but my eyes just could not see in the darkness. Got my packet and went to the bathroom (more about that later) and then back to my car to put bib on vest, get rest of my snacks and tissues ready, and then waited in my warm car (it was about 40 degrees and felt colder) until more people started to arrive. Went to the bathroom twice more (it was cold). I finally saw my friends Mellody and Vicki arrive so I left the warm comfort of my vehicle to chat with them.
Lots of Florida Marathon Maniacs were there, including one nice fellow with a camera who took shots of all of us and then continued to snap photos of us individually along the course. Quite a few no shows and a couple of people who DNF. No timing chip, no names on bibs – this was a low-key, no-frills, easygoing (but definitely not easy) race. How to describe the course? It was easy to get the hang of it once you did it – and you had to do it 4 times for the full, twice for the half. We walked down the main road, made a loop around some buildings, returned to the main road past the start/finish line, and then did a long out-and-back loop on a highway and then a shorter out-and-back loop in the other direction, returning to the main road again, past the start/finish – for the number of times required. There was also a 5 and 10 k with a turn-around at the half way point for those races.
The race director blew a horn and we took off. Spectators were roosters, chickens, and cows, as well as the kind folks at the aid stations who waited almost the full 7 hours for all of us to complete the course. There were 3 aid stations, with water, Gatorade, and packets of peanut butter crackers. Since the weather turned very warm, in the 80’s, by the time we were through, I really appreciated having those the salty crackers. For me, any 4 loop course will get boring, but I must admit that I enjoyed the scenery, fresh air, and quiet of this race. Road surface was easy to navigate but hard on my feet – there was grass and dirt along the road and I was tempted to walk there but the many fire anthills cautioned me to stay on the pavement.
Bathrooms, though, were an issue for several of us – there were real toilets, showers, and sinks for boys and girls. This is, after all, an actual working ranch and farm for boys (on a beautiful piece of land, with neat buildings, including a school) so there are events where bathrooms are a necessity for the people who live, work, and play here. However, the bathrooms are not ON the course but a good hike away, so stopping there took at least 3-5 minutes or more. Usually I do not need to stop during a race, but I did find it necessary on this race, and that ate into my finishing time. Comparing notes with others afterward, we all mentioned that it would have been a good idea to have at least one port potty on the course itself, perhaps close to an aid station. However, since this is low-budget race, cost might have been a factor. The loss of a few minutes was a small price to pay for the simplicity and beauty of this race.
We all got a medal that was really a sheriff’s badge and could be attached to the lanyard it came with or worn with a clip on one’s shirt. Inexpensive but very appropriate for the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Marathon. Bagels, water, bananas were available. And since the field of participants was so small, many of us received age group awards (me –first, and only, in my age group). That was nice!