For runners familiar with Florida topography, running a race is often expected to be a pancake-flat affair. The Caxambas neighborhood of Marco Island, however, offers elevation-deprived runners a new challenge. The five-mile race route is touted as the “toughest course in Southwest Florida” and features a whopping 17 hills. According to Race Director Mark McGarrity, this is one of the oldest races in Southwest Florida, now in its 40th year.
While the hills of Marco are far from the lung-busters of San Francisco or the Rockies, the course’s “Heartbreak Hill” – which runners face twice in the race’s third and fourth mile – tests you with an incline steeper than anything you’ll find on the streets of Boston or Central Park.
On December 22, over 300 runners were greeted with 60-degree temperatures and a 10 MPH wind out of the north. Perfect conditions for fast times – and, man, were they blazing!
Rebekah Topham, an All-American hopeful from Wichita State University, was the winning female with a time of 29:13.0. That’s averaging a 5:51-minute mile! Her college teammate, Pedro Montoya, was the race’s overall top male finisher with a time of 26:08.5.
The top male finishers were Pedro Montoya, Argeo Cruz of Immokalee, Florida (26:21.0) and Joshua Wagner of Naples, Florida (28:29.8). Cruz also finished second in 2017’s Marco Island Hill Run.
The top female finishers were Rebekah Topham, Stephanie Muscat of Naples and Abbi Lane of Marco Island. The top 8 women all came in under 35 minutes making this a great day for the ladies!
Bernie Martinez of Immokalee, Florida was the leading men’s Masters (40+) finisher in 32:39.6 and Christina Greis of Vasteras, Sweden crossed the line as the top Masters woman in 33:33.6.
World record holder, 70-year-old Jeannie Rice, of Mentor, Ohio, finished in a jaw-dropping 35:56. Rice set the women’s Age Group World Record of 70 and over at the Chicago Marathon in October 2018 with her finish of 3:27.50. She annihilated the previous 70-plus women’s world mark of 3:35:29 set by Helga Miketta of Germany in 2013. Another top age-group finisher, (60-64) Grace Plager of Naples, just finished the Kona Ironman World Championship in Kailua, Kona in October.
The Marco Hill Run is all about tradition and family. Such is the case with the Guadi Family of Naples. Visiting for the holidays, daughter Jeanine and son Glenn Jr., both from New York City have ran this course for several years with mom and dad.
Marco’s Poling family returns each year as part of their pre-Christmas tradition. Rosie, home from Harvard, joined parents Robert and Patricia and siblings, Michael, Eileen and Maggie.
Congratulations to all Marco Island finishers: Abbi Lane, Regan Odonnell, Rosie, Michael, Eileen, Maggie, Robert and Patricia Poling; Bailey Greaves, Emma Fernandez, Martin Muadi, Pat Cory, Chad Glassley, Logan Meester, Ami Cahill, Karla Meester, Susan Grierson, Susan Linn, Kyle Foster, Anthony Oliver, Michael Cory, Mary Cory, Shelli Connelly, Suzanne Bailey, Albert Van Der Schans, Rafael Rohena, Jr., Greg Glassley, Carl Kepford, Craig Carlson.
Race results can be found at gcrunner.org/.
Photos by Maria Lamb