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Naples Daily News Half Marathon is ready for Sunday with COVID-19 protocols in place

A couple thousand runners, shoulder to shoulder, eagerly waiting for the start. 

That's been the scene at the start of every Naples Daily News Half Marathon until Sunday.

And Mitch Norgart is just fine with that. The president of Gulf Coast Runners, which runs the event, is simply happy there will be a 2021 NDN Half Marathon, no matter what it looks like.

"We're just thankful," Norgart said, pointing as much to the important fundraising for the organization's youth development the Half Marathon creates as to the chance for runners to participate.

Like anyone trying to stage an event during the coronavirus pandemic, the half marathon has taken layers upon layers of planning to keep runners safe. In previous years, it was to keep them safe from things like traffic on the streets of Naples. Now it's entirely something different.

"We have three people that are 10 feet apart start every five seconds," Norgart said. "We can actually start 1,000 people in 15 minutes and keep all of these people at least six feet apart throughout the entire starting process. They have to keep a mask on up until they start the race.

"We hit them with hand sanitizer  and a mask and a bottle of water once they cross the finish line. There are no tents, no massage therapy like in previous years or things like that. They get a bag with a banana, orange and a power bar. We ask them to leave the premises."

"We had to give the City of Naples a 10-bullet point outline of how we're going to conduct the races," Norgart said. "We got approval from city council based upon us meeting with Pete DiMaria, who's the fire chief. He's also in charge of emergency command.

"We met with them and the police department, the fire department, and city manager, deputy city manager, and community events."

That race with 150 runners went off well. Gulf Coast Runners hired a videographer who had a drone and a photographer to document the start of the race so they could research how it all went, and also share that with the city. 

"We really wanted to prove, not just to ourselves, but to our members and most importantly our powers-that-be at the city, that we could safely stage a race," Norgart said.

For elite runners, there's a different mandate. They must have two negative tests within seven days of the race. And they will line up at 6:55 a.m., ahead of the usual 7 a.m. en masse start. The other reason for that is USATF goes by a gun time, not a chip time. Norgart is well aware of some of the financial situations of runners, so Gulf Coast Runners is offering to cover the cost of the second of the two COVID-19 tests.

"They have to provide us with the proof (of the negative tests)," Norgart said. "Each one of the tests have to be 48 hours apart."

Because runners are generally health-conscious, and Gulf Coast Runners has been very communicative regarding the procedures, Norgart isn't that concerned that protocols will not be followed. Nevertheless, race marshals, volunteers, and even some city police will be on hand to make sure they are. The city also has a mask mandate.

"They are dedicated athletes who, if they want to race a Gulf Coast Runners race ... they know what's expected of them and they risk being disqualified, and they know that," he said. 

(01/14/2021) Views: 42 ⚡AMP
by Greg Hardwig
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Naples Half Marathon

Naples Half Marathon

Why run Naples? It's a flat, fast and shady loop. Spirits are always really high, in part from the carbed-up pasta feeds and also because of the really colorful Coolmax shirts! The finish line is where the party begins, with unique quality medals to all finishers who finish within the race time limit, door prizes including weekends at beach front...

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Jeannie Rice missed the world record but sets a new National Record for the Half Marathon

Jeannie Rice missed her mark at the 2019 Naples Daily News Half Marathon, but a national record is pretty good consolation.

At Sunday’s race, Rice had her sights on taking down the world record for fastest half marathon by a woman 70 years old or older. It wasn’t a far-fetched goal – in October the part-time Bonita Springs resident broke the marathon world record for women over 70.

Rice finished in 1:38:41.9, missing the record by 1 minute and 3 seconds. However, her mark set the American record for the half marathon 70 plus.

"From the start, I knew,” Rice said about failing to break the world record. “It was around 70 degrees and humid. I didn’t want to die at the end, so I went at a slower pace.”

In the week leading up to the race, the forecast called for temperatures in the 50s – perfect for running. But with the temperature around 67 degrees Sunday morning, Rice knew it was too warm for her to go too fast.

The national record Rice broke technically was her own. When she set the marathon record in October, USA Track and Field used her time at the 13.1-mile mark of the race as the new record.

Rice had moral support from her friends in Cleveland, where she works as a real estate agent. Four members of her Northeast (Ohio) Running Club joined her in Naples to run the race. Rice crossed the line with NERC member Craig Pulling, who was running in the race for the first time.

“It was humid,” Pulling said. “I’m not used to running in this weather. I’ve been training all winter, and this was a lot harder and a lot slower (than running in the cold).”

(01/21/2019) Views: 1,268 ⚡AMP
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Naples Half Marathon

Naples Half Marathon

Why run Naples? It's a flat, fast and shady loop. Spirits are always really high, in part from the carbed-up pasta feeds and also because of the really colorful Coolmax shirts! The finish line is where the party begins, with unique quality medals to all finishers who finish within the race time limit, door prizes including weekends at beach front...

more...
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Jeannie Rice, 70, wants to break the world record for 13.1 miles in her age group at at the Naples Daily News Half Marathon

While most people slow down with age, Jeannie Rice keeps speeding up.

Just look at what the avid runner has done since turning 70 – Rice set a world record and three American records, all in 2018.

Rice aims to take down another record Sunday at the Naples Daily News Half Marathon. Her goal is to break the world record for 13.1 miles in her age group.

“It’s going to be very tight, but I am going to go for it,” Rice said.  “I would love to do it in Naples since this is my second home.”

Rice was born in Korea, moved to the United States when she was 19 and has spent most of her life as a Realtor in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. But she’s been coming to Bonita Springs seasonally since 2002 and started running in the Naples half marathon around that time.

She didn’t start running until she was in her mid-30s, but Rice quickly became competitive. While she’s been winning her age group at races across the country for years, 2018 was special.

In August, Rice set the Masters American record in the mile, winning the USA Track and Field Masters 1 Mile Championships in Michigan. Her time of 6 minutes, 38 seconds was more than two minutes faster than the previous record.

A few weeks later in September, Rice beat the national record for her age group in the 5-kilometer distance in Naples at the Gulf Coast Runners Labor Day 5K. However, her time of 21:38 is not an official record because the course was not certified by the USATF.

The highlight of the year came in Chicago in October. Not only did Rice run a marathon faster than any woman 70 years old or older in history, but she breezed past the previous world record. Rice finished the Chicago Marathon in 3:27:50 to break the record by more than six minutes.

“It was a fun year,” Rice said. “I’ve been working hard on this. It wasn’t easy, believe me. I work hard in training, but I also have fun. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

For her efforts, Rice has been named the USATF Female Road Runner of the Year. This year she also was voted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame.

(01/19/2019) Views: 1,241 ⚡AMP
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