A Race through Old Florida – the Tomoka Marathon in Ormond Beach, March 29, 2015

This was the 2nd running of the full and half Tomoka race series. I did the full last year and enjoyed it despite a delayed start and powerful thunderstorms that threatened to end the race prematurely. This year the course was essentially the same but instead of going up Old Dixie Highway at the beginning of the race and finishing along the Intracoastal Waterway, the direction was reversed. In a way this was fine with me but my favorite part is traversing Old Dixie Highway with its majestic oak tree canopy over the road. Since this part now came after mile 11, I was too tired to appreciate it. In addition, traffic was heavier by that time of the morning and I had to constantly watch for cars.

Darcy and I drove to Ormond Beach a day earlier than originally planned because we had to drop off my suitcase at a repair shop that was closed on the weekend. We enjoyed the extra time because there were several secondhand book stores for my husband to browse in while I had fun at the Byrd’s Nest Quilt Shop and a local yarn store. Our meals were at Cracker-barrel and a delightful and highly recommended seafood restaurant called Hull’s, located conveniently on W. Granada Boulevard, the main drag.

The host hotel for the race was the local Hampton Inn, which not only offered a special marathon rate but also had a free pasta dinner for all hotel guests. That was a nice surprise, although I was still full from our fish dinner and didn’t participate. My husband did, though, and even went back for seconds. The hotel also had a free shuttle that left at 5 am for the race start outside the Casements, former winter home of John D. Rockefeller, about 15 minutes away.

Unfortunately this year we did not have access to the nice warm interior of the Casements building but had to stay outside in the 45 degree cold until the race began at 6:30. That was a disappointment. Last year packet pickup had been held at the Casements but this year it was at the local YMCA, so there was probably no need to open up the building for racers, but it sure would have been more pleasant to stay warm.

The race began on time and we headed north through some toney neighborhoods along the Intracoastal, across the High Bridge (which again stopped me and several other participants as the drawbridge rose to let some boats through). A volunteer took our bib numbers so we wouldn’t be penalized for having to wait until the bridge became passable again. Then we turned south heading back to the finish line at Rockefeller Gardens outside the Casements, running several miles along Old Dixie Highway with a short out and back at Bulow Creek State Park and a longer one at Tomoka State Park. The last mile or two was across a busy bridge facing a headwind – that was a challenge but I could hear the announcer at the finish line and knew I was very close to the end of marathon/ultra #201.

I crossed the finish in 6:10 chip time. During the early miles I chatted with Harry and a few other Maniacs but towards the middle and end of the race, it was pretty lonely. I walked with Dan for several miles but forged ahead around mile 21; by that time I just wanted the race to be over. Although the course is fairly straightforward and hard to get lost on, I would have appreciated a few more signs just for reassurance that I was heading in the right direction. This was especially true in the Tomoka State Park section where I could not see anyone in front of me at all.

The marathon has a 7 hour time limit but with only 318 finishers, expect to be alone for much of the race if you plan to enter and walk.  Still, it is a beautiful part of the state, a pleasant memory of old Florida.


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