After a 16-year stint working abroad, Marco Gomez moved back to Key Biscayne in 2000 and settled into a house on Palmwood Lane. His next-door neighbor was Jim Brewster, who founded the Lighthouse Run in 1977 along with Ray Sullivan.
Jim quickly enlisted Marco to help with parking for the 26th running of the race. While both Brewster and Sullivan have since passed away, their legacy in the Lighthouse Run lives on. This will be Gomez’s 21st year volunteering with the event, scheduled for Nov. 13.
Gomez’s responsibilities have increased over the years. He now oversees the team of volunteers and tends to many details of the race itself.
Gomez and I met last week to chat about the work involved with organizing the race. For example, the day we met, he had just returned from a bakery, where he ordered 30 dozen bagels for race morning.
“What I enjoy most about the Lighthouse Run is the sense of community spirit,” he said. “We rely on about 200 volunteers who assist with everything from registering participants, directing runners to the start line, staffing the on-course water stations, and working the finish line. We all put aside our differences and work together to make this a safe and fun event for everyone.”
Although things usually go smoothly, there can be an occasional glitch. “One year the ice delivery truck didn’t arrive. Turns out he was delayed, and once the race had started, he was unable to enter the park. We made do and it turned out fine.”
For many South Floridians, the Lighthouse Run is a “can’t miss” event. The race includes a 10K course for runners and a 5K option for runners and walkers. It has a reputation for being well-organized, with a route that is safe and scenic. In contrast to many large races that take place entirely on city streets in urban landscapes, the Lighthouse Run starts and finishes in beautiful Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
Each participant and volunteer receives a race t-shirt. “Jim Brewster took great pride in the design of the t-shirt. Each year the Lighthouse Run logo is paired with a different animal. This year’s animal is the octopus. The runners seem to appreciate that sponsors’ names do not appear on the shirt. Some people register just to get the t-shirt.”
Another defining feature of the Lighthouse Run is the compilation of course records by age group, including a special division for Key Biscayne residents. For a number of years, legendary auto racer Emerson Fittipaldi held the course record in his age group.
“One year I was in particularly good running shape and realized I might have a shot at beating Fittipaldi’s record in the Key resident division,” Gomez recalled. “The race went well and I hit my target time, but I failed to realize that a friend in the same age group was 20 seconds ahead of me. Oh well.”
After a hiatus last year due to the COVID pandemic, the race is back. Asked what he is most looking forward to this year, Gomez said they have an entry from a two-year-old. “I guess he will ride in a stroller. I am looking forward to seeing him with a race number.”
Members of the steering committee include Melissa McCaughan White, executive director of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, and Todd Hofferberth, director of the Village Parks and Recreation Department. Geno Marron will again serve as announcer. Elaine Gross is in charge of packet pickup on race day. Split Second Timing handles the results.
Online registration closes at midnight on Friday, Nov. 12. In person registration at The Court Sports Gear, 79 Harbor Dr., is open until 5 p.m. on the 12th. Race day registration is not available.
If you are running or walking, arrive early. Gates to the park will close at 7:15 a.m. to allow time for the course to be cleared for the event.
If you want to cheer on runners, soak up the good vibes, or perhaps enjoy a post-race beverage, join the Lighthouse Run tradition that Jim Brewster and Ray Sullivan started 44 years ago.
For more information and to register, visit www.runsignup.com and under the “find a race” tab choose “44th Annual Key Biscayne Lighthouse Run.”