The tropical island of Key West simmers with margarita mellowness, teeshirt irreverence and nonstop nightlife at the Green Parrot and Sloppy Joe’s. Tourists flock here to photograph the quaint pastel cracker houses, view the seven mile reef aboard a glass bottom boat, or simply relax in South Florida’s balmy weather.
Average January temperatures in Key West hover at 75 degrees but things got even hotter last weekend when 15 women from Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club bounced into town on Friday afternoon in a Ford turtle-top passenger bus.
Why were they there? To run in the 18th Annual Key West Half Marathon or stride in the 5K walk. And when was the event taking place? Sunday morning at 7. So why arrive two days early? To acclimate, of course.
Sporting Brooks GTS sneakers and pulsing FitBits, the post-menopausal peloton left the Almond Tree Inn and beelined down Duval Street, the festive main drag (as it were…), to view the sunset at Mallory Square. Occasionally, part of the posse would accordion off in search of a tie-dyed tee shirt or portable margarita. Now and then there might be a lengthy discussion as to whether we were on the correct route to the pier, or should we be going THAT way instead.
Saturday morning provided blue skies and sunshine, allowing perfect conditions for touring this bougainvillea-blessed city. We walked to Hemingway’s House and marveled at the 42 resident polydactyl cats. We snapped selfies at the Southernmost Point and also at the beginning (or end, if you live in Fort Kent, Maine) of Route 1. We gulped down hearty burgers at Hog’s Breath Saloon, learned the city’s history on the Conch Train tour and, despite a wine or two, actually remembered to pick up our credentials for the Sunday race.
Each of us went to bed fairly early, confident that our weeks and months of training bode well for the next day’s race. What we had not accounted for was Mother Nature’s whim.
It was still dark at 5:30 on Sunday morning when our iPhones started beeping. TORNADO WATCH in Key West! DANGEROUS WEATHER in the area! RACE POSTPONED one hour! But like the trusty postmen, nothing would deter this pink-shirted platoon from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. By 8 a.m. the race was on!
The half-marathoners jogged off first, battling 30 mph winds and pelting rain. As we watched them sprint off, we 5-Kers high-fived that we’d made the absolute correct decision because who’d want to walk 13+ miles in THIS wind. But there was a wrinkle. One of our walkers was sporting a heel-to-knee cast because of toe surgery, which meant several of us would be pushing her wheelchair the entire 5k and passing her off, “baton style,” every few blocks.
The cheers as we passed through the finish line made us feel pretty damn good. (None of us are spring chickens.) As did the complimentary beer we were sipping at 9:30 while dancing to Howard Livingston’s Mile Marker 24 Band. “Let’s hear it for the ladies from Harbour Ridge!,” Livingston yelled from the stage as the pink shirts conga-lined through the crowd. (“Well they sure know that Harbour Ridge isn’t a nursing home,” someone sniffed.)
We conquered physical and mental challenges in Key West. But most of all, we had fun and more than lived up to Rosalind Russell’s motto: “Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”