• Hawkins among top competitors in USA Masters Half Marathon Championship
• Hawkins 2008 NCAA Division III women's cross-country Coach of the Year
• Five former Olympians in the race
• Registration still underway until event expo February 7
• One of final qualifiers for 2009 Boston Marathon
MELBOURNE, FL (January 26) — Whether leading her University of Dallas men's and women's track teams through workouts, joining her husband and sons for a run, or hooking up her MP3 player and heading for the hills, Jody Hawkins treasures the thought of running well every day.
"Running is just simply a part of me," the former American women's half marathon record holder says. "You just can't take it away. Every day I simply lace up my running shoes, thank God for the hour that I am about to get, and enjoy the moment that I'm embraced by."
Hawkins, the 2008 NCAA Division III women's cross-country Coach of the Year, will be one of the top competitors in the USA Masters Half Marathon Championship, one of three races that comprise the 2009 State Farm Melbourne & Beaches Music Marathon program. The event will be held Sunday, February 8, and will draw more than 1,000 runners from throughout the United States.
Races begin at 6:45 a.m. Top runners will vie for $12,000 in prize money in the marathon and half marathon in the age-graded prize money system. They'll battle over a fast course that utilizes the intracoastal waterway bridges while winding along two of eastern Florida's most familiar and picturesque roads, Old Dixie Highway (US 1) and Riverside Dr., along the beachside barrier island. The third race of the day, the Florida Today 5K, will run through downtown Melbourne. Participants will be entertained by 20 live bands along the course and a post-event celebration.
Registration is still open by going to www.themelbournemarathon.com. Entry fees are $100 for the State Farm Melbourne & Beaches Music Marathon, $85 for the Half Marathon and $35 for the Florida Today 5K. All three races are open to runners of all ages.
Hawkins, who has been training in hills near her Blooming Grove, Texas home to take advantage of the flat, sea level course in Melbourne, will match her 1:11.47 personal best against four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck, a 1:08 half-marathoner. "With Colleen coming to Melbourne, she's definitely the favorite," Hawkins said. "I hope to run a 1:16 or 1:17."
Other top elites in the women's field include Marybeth Reader of Bloomfield, Mich., Lori Kingsley of Wysox, Pa., and Linda Barnhard of Omaha, Neb.
Men's elites include four-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers of Boxboro, Mass., 1983 Boston Marathon winner and long-time U.S. 10-mile record holder Greg Meyer, over-70 national contender Bill Riley of Centerville, Mass., and the top competitors for the 2009 national title – 2006 Masters Runner of the Year Sean Wade of Houston, Tex., Robin Rogers of Marietta, Ga. (1:06), Paul Aufdemberge of Redford, Mich. (1:06.54), Carl Rundell of Birmingham, Mich. (1:07.56), Jim Derick of Big Flats, NY (1:08), Tracy Lokken of Marquette, Mich. (1:09), and Daniel Boyle of Manhattan, Kan. (1:10).
Hawkins has been one of the nation's top racers for 20 years. She has won national championships at several distances – 8K (5 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), 12K (7.4 miles) and the half marathon. As a Masters runner, she's won the national indoor mile championship, along with the national 3K (1.8 miles) and cross-country titles. She also finished second in the 2008 10K Masters Road Championships. With 95 Top-5 finishes in 100 elite races between 1989-99, #6 world rankings by both Runner's World and Running Times magazines (in 1994), and personal bests ranging from 4:28 in the mile to 32:00 in the 10K and 51:54 in the 10-mile, Hawkins brings deep experience and speed to the USA Masters Half Marathon Championship – a slightly longer race than her usual competitive fare.
"I never really focused on the half (before) because I loved the shorter stuff – a lot of tempo runs, fartleks, intervals and shorter races," she said. "I set the American record by doing long runs of only 10 miles. After running the 1:11.47, I knew that somewhere down the road I would focus on the longer races. Unfortunately, I got osteoporosis in 1999 and that dream was over for me."
After three years of recovery, Hawkins returned to running. She realized she couldn't live without it. She worked herself back into shape, and became a top over-40 racer.
Like several over-40 runners, Hawkins has found a new passion to coincide with her own competitive drive – coaching. And, like her peers, she runs the workouts with her collegiate athletes. She has spent many seasons as a coach, most recently heading the University of Dallas men's and women's track and cross-country programs. It took her little time to establish her presence: in 2008, her first season at the helm, Hawkins was named the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year after guiding her women's team to the North Eastern Athletic Conference title.
"I have coached many teams over the years and getting in there (with the runners) on a hard tempo or fartlek run and showing them how push harder and go places they've never gone before, as far as pain levels is amazing," Hawkins said. They grow so much as athletes and people. The pure feeling of knowing anything is possible if you work hard enough for it, priceless."
The State Farm Melbourne & Beaches Music Marathon has enjoyed significant support from city officials in Brevard County, Melbourne and Indialantic, along with the Space Coast Board of Tourism, the Melbourne-Palm Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Sports Foundation.
State Farm Insurance is the umbrella sponsor of the event. Additional sponsors include: Florida Today; Health First; Delta Airlines; Melbourne International Airport; Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi of Melbourne; Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront; Space Coast Credit Union; Bright House Networks; Beachside Performance & Health Studio; the Flammio & Schultz Financial team of Wachovia Securities; Florida Eye Associates; McDonalds; The Sample Guy; Crocs; Melbourne Square; Ocean Potion Suncare; Aqua Hydrate; Clif Bar; Publix; Spacecoast Living magazine; and WFIT 89.5 FM.
Complete information and entry forms can be found at www.themelbournemarathon.com.