“From Wait List To Finish Line”

By George Boyle
Modal Development Manager

I attempted to sign up for the Skyway 10k the day I found out about it. Unfortunately, the race sold out in only a few hours – so I was placed on the dreaded waiting list.

I didn’t think anything about it for weeks, and then I received an e-mail stating there were race slots that had become available. The catch? I needed to write an essay as to why I should be selected to run, so I figured what the heck.

I composed a very touching sob-story as to why I should be selected for the Skyway 10K and submitted it. Again, nothing back from the race coordination committee. A couple of (non-race training) weeks go by, and the Sunday before the race I get an e-mail congratulating me that I was selected and needed to register ASAP or they would offer the opening to next in line.

I immediately registered and was issued a “Wave 1” slot. The race was going to have three waves of runners, and the first wave had to report to Tropicana Field at 4:00 a.m. on race day. Additionally, everyone had to pick up their race packet and bib the Saturday before, which meant two trips down to Tropicana Field in less than 24 hours.

When I returned home from getting my race bib I noticed the bib had a “Wave 3” on it and my registration had a “Wave 1”. So now I’m confused. I tried to e-mail the sponsors to get some direction, but at this point, I’m sure the organizers had more pressing issues to deal with. I told my wife I would be heading out at 3 a.m. to make sure I was there for “Wave 1” if need be.

I arrived at Tropicana Field at 3:45 a.m. looking for someone to help me decide which wave I was supposed to run in. Luckily, after just a few minutes, I found the right woman who thanked me for bringing my registration confirmation with me and confirmed I was indeed in the first wave of runners.

She put a little “Wave 1″ sticker over the one my bib and I was good to go. From there, everything went smoothly – going through security, the loading of the school buses, the ride to the southern rest area – and then everything came to a halt. The first wave was at the starting line at 5:00 a.m., however, the race didn’t start until 6:15 a.m.

And so, we wait.

The temperature was hovering around a crisp 50 degrees with a strong wind, but that didn’t suppress the upbeat attitude of the crowd, who were about to experience the chance of a lifetime to run across the crown jewel bridge of Florida.

After a great opening ceremony which included bagpipes, the presentation of colors, and the singing of the national anthem, the Army howitzer shot the opening blast and we were off.

Shortly into the race, you could see the majestic, beautifully lit bridge up ahead. Unfortunately, you could also see the four-percent slope of the road you would have to run up.

The sun was about to rise, the weather was warming up and the scenery was amazing. Running up the slope was not as difficult as I envisioned, but it was challenging.

The higher you got the more wind there was. The school buses were using the emergency lane to return to the north rest area, so as they passed, you were breathing the diesel smoke and being sandblasted by the dirt and sand the wheels were kicking up.

As I passed over the crest and started down the other side, I noticed the little red “Wave 1” sticker I had on my vest was beginning to peel off. I didn’t want it to blow into the water, so I ripped the sticker off and stuck it in my pocket.

We were instructed at the beginning of the race that as soon as you passed the finish line, don’t delay, proceed right to the buses so they could clear the bridge and open it as soon as possible – so I did.

As I was standing in the crowd, a couple of obviously experienced and much thinner runners walked by, looked at me, gave me a high-five and said, “Good run, dude!” While I appreciated the accolades, I felt it was odd they weren’t dishing out high-fives to anyone else. On the bus ride back, I realized my newest fans must have looked at the “Wave 3” on my bib and assumed I had started with “Wave 3,” passed all the runners in “Wave 2,” and finished with “Wave 1.”

I wasn’t on the same bus with them for the ride back, so I couldn’t explain what had happened, but it sure felt good walking in line at Tropicana Field to get my participation medal with another 50 or so people giving me a “thumbs up.” Oh well, no reason to correct them all. Plus, there was no time – I had to get that hard-earned medal.

All-in-all, it was an excellent experience.