Out of Town Runners Dominant on Brisk South Florida Morning
Adam Lazrus’ motive for entering the 11th Annual Eau Palm Beach Marathon & Run Fest Sunday on the streets of downtown West Palm Beach and Lake Worth didn’t include taking home the first-place prize. He had never won a Marathon before. The 24-year-old from Silver Spring, Maryland, was simply trying to run a Marathon in every state before he turns 30.
But make no mistake about it, he was happily celebrating his first career win when he kicked toward the finish line ahead of rising temperatures on a brisk South Florida morning that saw the thermostat hovering at a Maryland-like 67 degrees for the 6:30 a.m. start.
Lazrus ended up being one of four first-time winners as more than 3,800 runners from 25 countries ushered in the event’s second decade.
Women’s marathon winner Mary Kreis, 44, of Belle Vernon, Pa and both half marathon winners – 19-year-old University of Florida sophomore Samuel Luttier and 29-year-old stay-at-home mom Jen Rossano of Indianapolis – also won their maiden titles in the event produced by Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company (NYSE: LTM).
It was the first year of title sponsorship for the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spay, located on the beach in Manalapan, Fla. The Eau Palm Beach Marathon & Run Fest was the second event of the five-race Florida Storm Series, which challenges runners to participate in three to five racing events in Florida during the 2014/2015 season. Next up is the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on January 25, 2015, the Michelob ULTRA Miami Beach 13.1 Marathon® on March 1, 2015, and the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay on March 15, 2015. The Michelob ULTRA Fort Lauderdale 13.1 Marathon® was contested in November.
Although there were subtle changes to last year’s marathon route, reducing turns, runners still were treated to miles of waterfront views and the race’s unique features that included relay teams and the popular Wacky Water Stations.
With the Florida sunrise on full display to the east, runners left the start line adjacent to the downtown Meyer Amphitheater at 6:30 am, and headed north on Flagler Drive past the 40-ft twinkle-light-decorated palm trees that lined the Intracoastal Waterway.
With his Wellington-based aunt and uncle cheering him on – his aunt worked a night shift and came directly to the finish line on Sunday – Lazrus completed his eighth marathon state and the fifth he has crossed off the list in 2014.
“This year I had a goal set to qualify for Boston,” explained the Carnegie Mellon-educated US government programmer who ran 2:59:10. “I did that in March, so I came up with the idea to run one marathon in all 50 states.”
Marcelo Lopes, 38, a Brazilian triathlete who has 15 marathons under his belt, was happy to finish behind Lazrus (3:02:48) after making a strong move from fourth place after the 20-mile mark.
Lopes is in training to compete in Brazil’s Iron Man competition and sought out the Eau Palm Beach Marathon because of his love for the area.
“When I see West Palm Beach, I said “that’s it.’ I like this city,” Lopes said. “This place is beautiful.”
Kreis, a 14-year Army veteran of more than 40 career marathons and 10 this year, dedicated her first win (3:27:33) to her mother, who for years has tried to woo her daughter to run in the event.
“My mom lives in Stuart and every year she sends me the newspaper articles,” said Kreis, a mother of a nine-year-old girl who is already running short races and participating in triathlons. "For years and years and years, I’ve been wanting to do West Palm Beach. My mom turns 76 in six days and I’ve been wanting to do this and have her see me do it. So I jumped on a plane and flew here last night.
“I’ve been running in 30 degree rain, snow and sleet. Trust me I’m thrilled that I could do this for my Mom. My Mom is at the finish lane saying ‘My baby girl did it!’”
If Kreis was surprised to be the winner, no one was more surprised to finish in second place (3:29:31) than 2012 Freestyle Wrestling World Champion Jessica MacDonald, a Canadian who wanted to celebrate her birthday by “running in a marathon in Florida.”
The 30-year-old world-renowned wrestler is rehabbing a shoulder that required surgery, and thought that the marathon might somehow aid in her quest to win Olympic wrestling gold in Rio in 2016.
“It’s been a tough year,” she said. “I wanted to do something to challenge my body. I just ran as fast as I could. I have no idea how to do the event.”
Third place went to Jennifer Sober, the event’s defending champion (3:34:10).
Luttier, the half-marathon winner and an agricultural operations management major at the University of Florida, returned home for the weekend and posted a personal best 1:18:11 on Sunday.
The former track & field and cross country star at local Cardinal Newman High School came into the race wanting to finish in the Top 10 and notch a personal best time. He was able to reach both goals Sunday when he slipped out of a pack of four runners at mile 10 and never looked back.
“I’ve been training for it for awhile,” he said. “I thought the course was laid out well. It had a lot of twists and turns, and it was a great challenge.”
Jupiter’s John Reback was second in 1:19:54 while Derek Miller of Palm City was third in 1:20:06.
Women’s winner Rossano was in town to visit parents who winter in Fort Lauderdale. It was her first serious half marathon since giving birth to a daughter eight months ago.
She has been training with a group for the last six weeks in hopes that it will lead to competing in the Kentucky Derby Marathon next March, her 12th career race at that distance. As part of her training, she laid out a plan for Palm Beach.
“I started to gain on the girl in front of me at mile 7 or 8 and at mile 9 I settled in behind her,” said Rossano. who covered the 13.1 miles in 1:28:18. “I stayed in second until the 11-and-a-half mile mark and then I made my move. If she hadn’t set the pace we wouldn’t have finished that fast.”
“The girl in front” was Stuart’s Krista Mueller, 40, who ran a personal best 1:28:26 despite signing up for the race on Saturday.
Mueller, who has run a number of national marathons that include New York and Boston, is training for Disney’s Dopey Challenge in which athletes run a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon on back-to-back days.
“I did an hour run yesterday and felt good. I wanted to see how I recovered,” she said. “It was nice to have spots available for this race where I could sign up.”
One of the new wrinkles of the 2014 Palm Beach Marathon was to move the event’s 5K from Friday to Sunday to give the runners at the shorter distance the opportunity to enjoy the marathon race day experience.
Palm Beach Garden’s Joseph Kappel ran a personal best 16:49.1 to defeat a field of more than 300 runners that included second place finisher Scott Myers of West Palm Beach (17:16.5) and third place Todd Mitchell of Jupiter (18:36.4).
“My goal has been to break 17 minutes for a long time,” said Kappel, a Palm Beach State College chemistry teacher who won the “Run for Recovery” 5K at Dreher Park two weeks ago. “I’m real happy that I did. And it was great to enjoy the morning.”
Jupiter’s Janine Virano, 45, was the first woman to cross the 5K finish line, winning her first race (20:18.5) since giving birth to a son 15 months ago. Brooke Garden of Greenwich, CT (20:28.2) was second with third place going to Lauren Flood of West Palm Beach (20:30.9).
“It’s a priority shift and I’m enjoying this phase of my life,” said Virano, a longtime fixture on the local running scene. “It’s great and exciting to win. It’s fun to be out and see everyone.”
More than 50 disabled athletes competing under the banner of Achilles also participated.
“The race was really nice, and the course was great, " said hand cyclist Andres Biga, an Argentine who won the full marathon (1:24:42) in a sprint to the finish line. “We went out with four guys and we were out together over the race. I got lucky at the finish because one of the guys in front of me crashed and I could avoid that guy so I sprinted and finished alone at the front.”
Biga was three seconds ahead of Tim Connor of Hillard (1:24:45) and Helman Roman of Miami (1:24:45).
Push Rim Marathon winner Matt Davis of Bowling Green, KY traveled to South Florida to escape winter conditions.
“Anytime you win it’s a good thing right?” Davis said. “When you do 26.2 miles and you finish, you win.”
Tammy Landeen of Milton won the women’s marathon in the Hand Cycle (1:44:54) while Vickie Horne of Tallahassee was second (2:15:38).
In the half marathon distance, hand cyclist Vance Gerkovich of Clermont was the winner (1:00:27) with first-time competitor Don Sirosi of Lake Worth second (1:14:53). Sirosi, who is both paralyzed and deaf, has only been handcycling for a little more than a month.
Alfredo de Los Santos (1:28:10) of Hopewell Junction NY, a member of the US Paralympics team, and Carl Morgan (1:52:05) of Conyers, Ga were one-two in the Push Rim Half Marathon while Frances Alvarez of Miami won the women’s Hand Cycle Half Marathon (1:36:30).
“We were happy with how everything turned out,” said race director Javier Sanchez. “Our numbers were up in the 5K and the half marathon. My vision going forward is to promote the marathon distance and to grow the Eau Palm Beach Marathon as a destination race. Look at our weather. It’s a beautiful destination.”
More information about Life Time Athletic Events is available at EventsByLifeTime.com, on Twitter @lifetimefitness and the Life Time Athletic Events Facebook page. About Life Time Fitness, Inc.
As The Healthy Way of Life Company, Life Time Fitness (NYSE:LTM) helps organizations, communities and individuals achieve their total health objectives, athletic aspirations and fitness goals by engaging in their areas of interest – or discovering new passions – both inside and outside of Life Time’s distinctive and large sports, professional fitness, family recreation and spa destinations, most of which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Company’s Healthy Way of Life approach enables customers to achieve this by providing the best programs, people and places of uncompromising quality and value. As of December 7, 2014, the Company operated 113 centers under the LIFE TIME FITNESS® and LIFE TIME ATHLETIC® brands in the United States and Canada. Additional information about Life Time centers, programs and services is available at lifetimefitness.com.