BY FINN S. LASST
KEY WEST, FL – Minutes after winning the Florida Keys 182k Ultramarathon, first-time ultrarunner Pace Halvorson unleashed a record-breaking number of sports clichés in the post-race press conference. Halvorson, a native of Key Largo, ran the entire span of his home state’s Overseas Highway in record time, besting what many thought to be the race’s most competitive field ever.
“I just went out and executed in all phases of the race,” said Halvorson. “Obviously, my mindset was to just go through the process and never lose sight of what I was supposed to do. You stay relaxed within the process and all the pieces fit together.”
Asked how it felt to win the race in record time, Halvorson said, “It’s huge. You don’t want to wake up.”
Speculation abounded prior to the race regarding Halvorson’s supposed home field advantage, which the record-breaker didn’t deny. “I have the best fans in the world here. But I knew I’d have to step it up on this type of stage and come out with the same type of energy that I would for any race. You have to take care of business at home.”
Of the highly competitive field, Halvorson had nothing but a long, long string of played out positives. “Nobody has more respect for these guys than I do. I was just happy to be a part of this field. These runners have been battle-tested and you have to respect them. You know they’re going to give 110 percent. You expect a fight. You expect a gutty effort because they’re tough competitors.”
Asked for further explanation on what separated him from this year’s sterling group, Pace continued with even more platitudes. “You never give up. Never lose faith. You just go out there and be physical and execute and see how it plays out.”
Having never won an ultramarathon, Halvorson was something of a dark horse in this year’s race. That didn’t alter the champion’s training plan, though. “I knew what I had to do to prepare, so I went out and did it. You just take it one race at a time. It’s all or nothing. You know, you gotta believe in yourself. Go big or go home.”
This year’s race featured strong headwinds and tailwinds during certain stretches due to the approach of Hurricane Bartholomew, a cat. 2 storm off Florida’s east coast, and Tropical Storm Murray, off the state’s gulf coast. The tailwinds almost exclusively benefited Halvorson, as the soon-to-be champ – who had been firmly in last place throughout the entirety of the race – got an extra boost from a sustained 40+ mph wind from behind. The rest of the pack, by contrast, saw their hopes stymied by a record-breaking 60 mph headwind that Halvorson had narrowly avoided by getting lifted up and over it.
Was that part of his plan going into the race?
“I was on the ropes there, but I just maintained my composure and caught some breaks,” Halvorson said of the fortuitous gale. “That was huge.”
Asked to give advice to aspiring ultrarunners, Halvorson had more than a few words. “Just relax and have fun out there. Don’t try to do too much. Step up at the right time. You wanna do everything right and run every race like it’s your last. But also remember the mindset: You don’t have to get everything right. You execute in all phases and what happens, happens.”
When tested with an unrelated question (“Do you prefer cake, or pie?”), Halvorson refused to veer off course. “You can’t afford to get lackadaisical. When your back’s against the wall, it just goes back to executing.”
Noticing the crowd of reporters beginning to lose interest, Halvorson stood and quickly rambled off the scant remaining sports clichés at his disposal. “I held on to win. But really the MVP should go to the whole field. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I have to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for being with me every step of the way.”
Halvorson showed no sign of stopping, even as the crowd ran for cover as the hurricane swept up the press table, and Halvorson along with it:
“Yeah, it’s back to work. Season ain’t over yet. You go out there and give it your all. Rest up, come back ready to go! Just keeping a positive attitude, and looking forward to next week. Back up on that horse! The early bird catches the worm, and all that. Hey, why’s everyone leaving?”