There’s something special about the Marco Island 5-Mile Hill Run, which celebrated its 41st running on December 21st, 2019. Dubbed the “toughest course in Southwest Florida,” the Hill Run boasts 17 inclines—at least, according to its t-shirt.
Today, the first runner crossing the tape was Mike Gault (19) from Saint James City, FL, in a time of 28:37.2—an average pace of 5:43 per mile! Joshua Wagner (21) and Justin Moomaw (37), both of Naples, rounded out the podium on the men’s side with times of 29:14 and 29:27.
Ysabella Guerra (23), who ran an impressive 31:37, powered through the hilly second half to an easy victory and top female overall finisher. Marco Island residents Alexis Lamb (39) and Harvard University student Maura Rose Poling (20) finished second and third in 33:09 and 34:13.
Leading the Masters (40+) division on the men’s side was Ted Blankenship (54), with an age-defying time of 32:08. Beth Schadd (45) of Cascade, Idaho, was the top female master runner with a time of 35:48.
The real “King of the Hill,” however, was Indian Hill, a 200(ish) meter heartbreaker that you run up twice between miles 3 and 4. Even if you’re used to training on hills—say, in New York’s Central Park—you will still be tested by this Hill Run’s quad-busters. The first mile starts off on flat terrain at the Wesley United Methodist Church on South Barfield Drive. The race begins with a half-mile straightaway, blessed by a cheerful tailwind that tempted runners into a false sense of speed. Some fell for it and suffered later.
After turning on Inlet Drive, racers experienced a mile and a half of rolling hills and smooth straightaways through some of Caxambas Drive’s finest real estate. The course was teasing the runners and has yet to reveal the real challenge coming up.
At the end of the second mile, the race starts. Turn a corner, and Indian Hill looms above like an insurmountable Everest. Add the headwind, which was anywhere from 10 to 15 MPH on race morning, that hit the runners hardest on the last mile.
The Marco Island 5-Mile Hill Run is a tough course that rewards the gritty and the patient. This is not a race expecting a PR but a worthy kick-starter to Florida’s winter racing season.