During Sunday’s Miami Half Marathon, Ty McCormack was forced to make a strategic decision he’s never encountered in his many years of elite distance running. About eight miles into the race, the North Hall High graduate and Olympic Trials qualifier, noticed his shoelace was untied.
Right in the thick of the top professional competitors in the 13.1-mile race, McCormack decided to keep running, instead of losing “20 or 30 seconds” it would take to re-tie his shoe.
“I panicked a little at first, but I decided to just keep going,” said McCormack, who made Olympic Trial qualifying at the Philadelphia Half Marathon last fall. “This race was more of a practice run.”
McCormack, who ran in college at Clemson University then at Auburn University while earning his Master’s of Business Administration, completed the Miami race strong, despite having a shoe sliding around. He earned third place with a time of 1 hour, 6 minutes out of field of approximately 15-20 professional runners and more than 25,000 total participants.
“I had a few blisters when I finished,” said McCormack, 23, who now works as a financial planner in Orlando, Fla. “As soon as I finished, I tossed my shoe off.”
McCormack, who characterizes himself as a semi-professional runner, said his third-place in Miami was the icing on the cake for a successful weekend.
On Saturday, he won a local series race in Orlando, finishing the 5.2-kilometer course with a time of 15 minutes, 16 seconds. Following that race, he hopped in his car and made the 235-mile drive south to Miami to run the half marathon.
His biggest point of pride was crossing the finish line as the first runner from the U.S. at Miami. McCormack finished just 1:08 behind overall winner Stephen Njoroge, and 49 seconds behind runner-up Benson Cheriyout — both professional runners from Kenya.
The Gainesville native said he made his move into contention with a burst at about the 11-mile mark in Miami.
“I was tempted to go out fast early, but I decided to stay with the field for the first 10 kilometers,” said McCormack, who picked up a trophy and $350 prize for his third-place spot. “Earning third place in Miami was a confidence booster.”
Since he opted to drive down to Miami last weekend, he received a voucher for another free flight to Miami.
Miami was McCormack’s final race before going to the West Coast for the Olympic Trial on Feb. 13 in downtown Los Angeles. He will need a top-3 finish in his first full marathon race to earn a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team for the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Olympic Trial run will be four times around a six-mile loop through the downtown city streets, McCormack said. The U.S. Olympic Team will run the full 26.2-mile distance in the Summer Games.
He said the Olympic Trial race will have approximately 100 runners, all based on the number of athletes who were able to break the 65-minute qualifying mark.
For the next three weeks, McCormack will be trying to strike the perfect balance between physical recovery and mental preparation. On Monday, McCormack knocked out a 10-mile run with his friends at the Orlando Track Club, well short of his usual 22-mile Mondays.
Now, he’ll focus on the ice baths, hydration and making sure to get plenty of sleep before his crack at the Olympic Trials next month. McCormack said he’ll get to Los Angeles a few days early to get in some practice runs.