“Where the heck is Mount Dora?” These were the first words I uttered when Elaine sent me the link for this race back in June. For the record, Mount Dora is north of Orlando and east of Leesburg. This was the inaugural running of the race, and it wasn’t very expensive to enter. Elaine, Pam and Jen were all interested in participating, so we made the executive decision to sign up. Jen offered to pay for my entry fee as a thank you for all the help and wisdom I had provided as she obtained her Master’s Degree (a very sweet gesture on her part). We would later learn that quite a few of the Ocala Turtles had signed up for the race as well, including Robin. I had originally signed up to do the full marathon; after discovering everyone else had entered the half, I decided to “downsize” and run with all of my friends.
Glenda originally entertained the idea of going with me to watch us run, but Rachel and her middle school band was playing in the parade at Universal Studios on Friday. Glenda volunteered to chaperone the trip, so they left early Friday morning. Lindsey came home Friday night from UF after taking her last final, so I decided to hang out with her and leave early Saturday morning. The plan was to stay at Jen’s house, and drive to Mount Dora Sunday morning. Jen lives about an hour north of Mount Dora, so I would take my car to the race and head home after that. Jen and Robin would hitch a ride back with Pam and Elaine, who were running a half marathon in Palm Coast on Saturday night. I got to Jen’s house around noon, and we spent the day shopping. This was highlighted by a trip to Trader Joe's in Gainesville, which had just opened earlier in the week.
We woke up our usual early time and Jen made us both a fruit juice smoothie for the trip. Robin arrived at Jen’s house around 5am, and we were ready to hit the road. It was an easy drive to Mount Dora, but both Jen and I started to feel sick along the way. I had to pull over to the side of the road and take care of some magical unplanned business in the woods. Robin pointed out that there was a gas station across the street, but I figured the bushes would have some cleaner facilities (and I would be "one with nature"). When we parked the car, it was now Jen’s turn to “release the hounds,” as she threw up for a few minutes. This clearly appeared to be smoothie related. With these pre-race festivities now out of the way, it was time to get our bibs and race shirts.
The starting line was at the Lakeside Inn, which opened in 1883, and has entertained President Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. There were 201 entrants in the full marathon, and 479 running the half. 298 runners will hit the pavement for a 5K later that morning. As we met up with Elaine and Pam, both Jen and I felt much better.
Having never been to Mount Dora, the scenery far exceeded my expectations. It was a little hilly for the first few miles, but nothing compared to Gainesville. I ran with Elaine; Jen, Pam and Robin ran together at a little slower pace. It was very quiet and extremely peaceful. The people were very friendly, and I was totally digging this race. It was shady during the first eight miles, but it got pretty hot after that. It may have been very challenging to complete the full marathon, as the temperature climbed into the mid 80’s by the end of the race. We had a chance to run through some beautiful neighborhoods, with lots of spectators cheering us on. We even spotted some of the other Turtles competing in the race, including Awesome Amy.
As we made the final turn to “bring it on home,” you couldn’t see the finish line. This was because there was a pretty big downhill drop for the last tenth of the race. This was way cool, as you had no choice but to sprint past the finish line! The finisher medal (and race shirt) was very nice, and we later had a privilege to take a picture with former Boston & NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers.
After grabbing a victory breakfast at Perkins, it was time for me to make my three hours (plus) drive home. This was a truly enjoyable race; one that I would welcome entering again.
Now comes the fun part…training for the Miami Marathon on January 27th.
KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON