By the dawn’s early light: 400 up early for Marco Island Half Marathon ‘Bridge Run’ and 5K

Lance Shearer

What does a modern day cross-country run have in common with a lobster dinner at a seafood restaurant? Disposable bibs.

In a sign of the ongoing march of technology, the approximately 400 runners participating in the “Bridge Run,” the Marco Island Half Marathon, and its associated 5K run-walk on Sunday morning, had their times monitored by chips embedded in the numbered identification bibs included in their entry package, replacing the electronic timing bracelets worn on their ankles.

Runners stream over the Gober Bridge in both directions. About 400 took part in the Marco Island Half Marathon, aka the Bridge Run, and 5K Run Walk, with the half marathon runners starting at sunrise on Sunday morning and crossing the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge twice.

They milled around in the early morning darkness before race organizer Fred Kramer sounded the horn, sending them off in a pack that soon stretched out into a long series of individuals, each challenging her or himself to keep up the pace over the 13.1 miles of the half marathon course, parceling out their energy optimally without racing at an unsustainable speed.

The half marathoners headed out under the starting arch on Balmoral Court next to the Shops of Marco, with their bibs recording their times, just as the sun peeked over the eastern horizon. It was still low in the sky when the runners reached the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge that provides the course’s stiffest challenge, and gives it the more or less official nickname “Bridge Run.”

In a landscape notably short on hills, they had to ascend the lofty bridge, then immediately turn around and do it again. The picture-perfect morning and awe-inspiring vista from atop the bridge made up for the effort, and runners were smiling, waving and giving thumbs-up as they surmounted the span – maybe just a little less so on the way back. For a long time, there was foot traffic in both directions as the faster runners heading back toward Marco Island met their fellows making their first climb.

On the bridge, the race for first looked like a two-person event, with Michael Babinec and Jack Braconnier running neck and neck. On the return, though, Babinec pulled away and by the time he had run through the streets of Key Marco, he was alone with the MIPD escort vehicle, eventually finishing two minutes and 55 seconds ahead.

Babinec’s time was one hour, 16 minutes even, with Braconnier finishing in 1:18:55. First female finisher Caroline Berg came in at 1:33:51, followed by Laura Howell of Naples in second place at 1:34:51.

Aaron Hess topped the males in the 5K at 22 minutes, 15 seconds, with Bill Solimine ten seconds behind at 22:25. Ava Aseere beat all women with a time of 23:17, with Lucia Rodbro second at 23:43.

Notable local finishers in the half marathon included Albert Van Der Schans of Marco Island, first in his bracket at 1:50:12, Maria Lamb, 1st in her group at 2:18:45, Rob Asbell, 3rd in his bracket at 1:51:32, and Karla Meester, 7th in her group at 1:57:56.

In the 5K, Lincoln LaButte, 11, won his bracket at 25:02, Brielle Penzo finished 2nd in hers at 23:50, and Allyson Richards finished 5th in her bracket at 33:22.

For a complete listing of results, go online to marcoislandhalfmarathon.com.