NAPLES, FLORIDA (17-Jan) -- A brief but powerful storm took down trees and power lines here this morning forcing cancellation of the Naples Daily News Half-Marathon for the first time in the event's 29-year history. The course, although completely set up before dawn, simply wasn't safe for the 2100 runners who had signed up for the event, race officials said.
"It was scary," said longtime race director Perry Silverman sitting with his race management team in a Starbucks in the picturesque downtown area here. "There were power lines down out there."
Silverman, working with local authorities, had worked to move the starting time back one hour to 8:00 a.m., but the damage was too great to resolve in time even for a later start.
"We moved it back to eight o'clock," the white-haired Silverman explained, looking tired. "We set up the course at 3:00 a.m.; it came in so fast."
Also blown away with the storm were the chances of a handful of athletes who had come here on the final day of qualifying to try to get a USA Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying mark (65:00 for men or 75:00 for women). Four men had signed up for the race with the intention of qualifying --Al Escalera, Ethan Clary, Kurt Roeser, and Thomas Porter-- while a fifth, Lex Williams, also hoped to hit the mark, but did not intend to run the Trials.
Moreover, another 14 American athletes who had already qualified for the Trials had planned to use today's race as a tune-up run, including Tyler McCandless of Boulder, Colo. McCandless, who finished third here last year in a personal best 63:14, told Race Results Weekly yesterday that he was in excellent shape.
"Know of any races next weekend, haha?" McCandless said in a text message to Race Results Weekly this morning. "At least I'm not curled in bed sick," he continued, referring to a half-marathon in 2013 when he traveled to the Italian island of Sardinia and couldn't compete because of illness.
Dozens of American athletes are tuning-up for the Trials --or hoping to qualify-- at other races today in Carlsbad, Calif.; Houston, Texas; and Tempe, Ariz. In Tempe, at the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half-Marathon, four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman is pacing a group of me to a 65:00 finish.
For Silverman, it was a difficult decision to cancel the race here, but he said he had no choice because one neighborhood in the heart of the course, Port Royal, was badly hit.
"It was only 15 minutes of storm," he lamented. "All of the problems were in Port Royal."
PHOTO: The wind-whipped start line banner of the 2016 Naples Daily News Half-Marathon (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)