ING Miami Marathon: Pro Tips for Surviving the Race from South Beach Runner The Raven

This weekend, nearly 25,000 runners with unwavering determination will gather at the start line at the American Airlines Arena at 6:15 a.m. to run the 26.2-mile course of the ING Miami Marathon (or the 13.1-mile course of the half-marathon). All of them will be there to win a prize, whether it be the self-gratifying victory of receiving a participation medal or, for a few, the actual cash prizes.

The marathon course starts in Downtown Miami, winds through Miami Beach, south to Coconut Grove and then back north to downtown. For inexperienced runners, the task is more daunting than casting a ballot in last year's election.

But what exactly does it take for a long-distance runner to make it to the finish line? Just ask Robert Kraft, better known as The Raven. The South Beach legend and streak runner has been running eight miles on the same stretch of shore since January 1, 1975, after making a New Year's resolution to run every day for a year.

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Neither rain nor hurricane nor relentless body aches and pains keep Raven from his daily routine, and he has no plans on stopping. "I have not missed a day in 38 years and 17 days. 111,176 miles. 13, 897 consecutive days," he says. How's that for motivation?

Take notes from a pro. We spoke with The Raven himself for tips on how to best run and prepare for the ING Miami Marathon.

New Times: You've been running on the beach for nearly 40 years. How long would you say someone racing a 26.2-mile course should have been preparing for?
Raven Runner: If they're not a runner I would start at least six months before, and if they are, then maybe three. I only run on sand. A little bit on the boardwalk, just to get away from the sand a bit. But sand is the best surface in the world. Cement will hurt you in the end--it's unforgiving. When you fall, you fall hard. On the sand you fall gentle.

The Rickenbacker Causeway will likely be the roughest part of the course for some of the runners. What's the best way for them to pace themselves?
I would say to take it slow if you're not used to it. Push yourself up the hill and train well. On South Beach they have these little sand dunes and these little walkways--I would just run up and down on those walkways. That will give you a little hill training. And if you're going to be running the Causeway, I would try to do something similar. Whether you live here or somewhere else, I would do a little hill work.

Pacing yourself is important. I would start off a little slower and then you'll start feeling better.

Runners will be out on the course before dawn--is there anything they should be prepared for climate wise?
It gets hotter as the day goes on, that's something they have to be aware of. When I run it gets cooler. When you start at 5:30, 6 in the morning, it just gets hotter, even in January.

What are your running shoes of choice?
I wear New Balance sneakers. You don't want to get blisters. Try to get them a little bigger, because your feet swell up and you definitely don't want to get any blisters. I used to dread breaking in new shoes because I always ended up with a blister. By getting them bigger, it's better. You can always wear extra socks if they're too big.

How can marathon runners mimic your running uniform?
I wear as little as possible. Shorts, shoes, and I wear one black glove--that's my power.

A black glove?
I wear a black glove. It's my power. And I never wear a shirt. I just wear a headband to get the hair out of my eyes. That's about it. People wear all these fancy things, all kinds of packs and everything, and these fancy shirts and shoes. I say, wear as little as possible.

But I want to know more about this black glove.
I found my first glove in 1977 on 38th Street beach where I had met a girl a few years before. I fell for her and she was long gone. I found that glove just where I met her. I put it on and I felt a surge going through my body. I wear a glove, even though it's not the same glove, but I've worn a glove ever since and I never quit because of that glove. I also keep my keys in my gloves, so I have my keys right in my hand.

I've gone through rubber gloves, diving gloves. Right now I've got a winter glove that I'm wearing. I have all kinds of black gloves--it's always just one and I've never bought a glove, people either give them to me, or I just find them.

Runners need to stay motivated and keep their morale high. Should they take something with them that gives them power, such as your glove?
A lucky charm, a necklace, a bracelet, a coin--something that when things get rough they can just hold on to that and grab it and pray for God's power to get them through it. It's a lot of mental work. Ninety percent of this is all mental. Whether its my eight miles or a marathon.

Is listening to music a good idea?
I never listen to music because I always have a group that runs with me. It gets some people through it, but it also gets some people going too fast and works them up too much. But if it gets people through it, then I guess it's all right. I personally don't.

Want to be a Raven Runner? You can do it for free. Visit ravenrun.net.

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