The celebration of the 25th annual Half Shell Half Marathon went better than scripted for organizer Barb Wright, who has directed this highly-regarded event since its inception.
Thousands of runners and walkers signed up for the half-marathon, the 5K, and an assortment of festivities spread over five days for this special event.
For every year the race has been in existence, organizers arranged to have 25 local musicians jamming on their instruments spread out over the 13.1-mile and 3.1-mile courses to provide a little extra fun and motivation.
The weather was a little cold by Key West standards with a slight northerly breeze that chilled the locals, but it was ideal conditions for the runners.
Wright was extremely pleased with the numbers, weather and events they planned.
“We had 4,489 participants actually signed up. In the half-marathon, we had 2,588, we had 1,252 signed for the 5K and 316 for the Papa’s Pilar Rum Run and 144 for the Beach and Beer Mile,” explained Wright. “There were runners from 49 states except Montana with entrants from 17 countries.”
For those who came for the race, the finish of the half-marathon kept the top three runners on their toes.
Near the halfway point, Brian Houck from Seattle and Patrick Gavin of New Orleans held a slight advantage but ultra-marathon athlete Garrett Burger took control of the lead and finished the 13.1-mile out-and-back course with a time of 1:15:45 for first overall. Houck took second at 1:16:52 and with a 1:17:10 was Gavin for third.
“I’ve never been to Key West but I am enjoying my time. It could have been so much warmer, but this is cold for you guys,” said Burger. “But it is beautiful running weather.”
The top three finishers all wore orange running tanks and it was obvious they were not from the same running club.
“The two other orange shirts were working together and right before the turnaround, I let the winds carry me mostly. I almost had a PR,” said Burger.
It was Houck’s third time running the half marathon.
“This was my best finish here. It was great conditions, nice and cool but a little windy. It’s certainly nicer weather than we have in Seattle so it’s nice to come down here,” Houck said. “It takes a long time to get down here but Key West is always worth it.”
Gavin said he has not trained much and it showed in his finish.
“I was definitely BSing that race, I haven’t been running much so I’m happy with the way I did,” Gavin explained. “I knew those guys would eventually suck me up. I haven’t raced in about four years so this was a rust-buster. I’ve run faster but haven’t run much. I’m very happy with the race. I didn’t think I would run that fast.”
Topping the female runners was Christa Collins from Irmo, South Carolina, with a time of 1:26:13, followed by Louisiana resident Megan Gohres with a 1:28:33 and third was Roseanna Mullins from Summerland Key in a time of 1:31:32.
“It was my first time here. It was windy, lots of people — lots of very good female support,” explained Collins. “It was awesome, it was incredible. I like the out-and-back so I could see all the other females. That was incredible.”
Collins said it was not her top time but happy she could be in Key West.
“It was a little slow for me but I’ll take it. That was my first race in quite a while,” said Collins.
Topping the 5K race was 16-year-old Luke McGillivray from North Andover, Massachusetts, with a time of 17:12.02, followed by Nicholas Ford, also from Andover, and Key West resident Michael Labrada was third overall.
In the female 5K race, Denver resident Jane Jensen was first with a 21:50, second was Monica Beien from Kansas and Vicki Lang of Maryland was third.
McGillivray came with family and friends for vacation but made the races part of their trip.
“My dad (Dave McGillivray) is the director of the Boston Marathon so he was like there’s a 5K and half-marathon so we signed up,” said the younger McGillivray. “I liked the course, it was way flat.”
The elder McGillivray said they wanted to take a five-day vacation and found this event. He has directed the Boston Marathon for 36 years and completed his 50th consecutive run in 2022.
“I saw the half-marathon and 5K were here. Obviously, it’s flat and the weather was perfect for us. The festivities here are marvelous. I’ve heard a lot about this race from people I know that come to run or work this race. I’m glad I was able to experience it,” said Dave McGillivray. “This is great. There are lots of parties. It’s all about the weather. Kudos to her (Wright) and her team.”
For complete results, visit https://www.keywesthalfmarathon.com/.