A Tale of Two Florida Running Cities from the Miami Book Fair: Miami vs. Anna Maria Island

IMG_1167The media love to have fun with Florida and all of it’s crazy characters. But that’s what happens when you get to be large and popular. There will be the share of nut cases and all kinds of folks the media loves to squander headlines on.

I was very lucky to be the only author my publisher invited to book sign at the Miami Book Fair. It was the second year in a row and, it was every bit as fun as last year. This year, the weather was definitely more cantankerous. The first two days were almost a wash-out with wind and downpours rivaling any tropical storm.


At one point, the wind was so strong that the tents provided by the book fair, which were grounded in concrete blocks almost blew over. The water didn’t drain fast enough and the two employers from my publisher as well as I, were standing in ankle-deep water. But the show must go on and by day three, we sold many more books than last year. I sold more than 100 books and topped my numbers from last year. I love my publisher though. We always have so much fun and laugh ourselves silly at some of the things that happen. I highly recommend belly-laughing no matter what inspires you.


IMG_1196As one  buyer said, “I don’t know about vegan, but you had me at $4 a day.” The flipside to attending the country’s largest book fair is that I had pay my expenses, as most authors do these days. Fortunately I got to stay with my best friend from high school who lives in Miami. She lives on Brickell Key.

A little trip down memory lane when the live truck pulled up…boy did my heart race when I had to do these when I worked for the NBC affiliate. You’d think they’d want to do a story about how to feed peeps healthfully on a budget, or gosh…even food stamps (?!) …somebody needs to let them know. (Not that I haven’t tried. wink )


When I was a TV reporter in Miami in 1980, I lived in a leaky-9 story condo, (since replaced with a mega-highrise condo building) in Coconut Grove that overlooked Brickell Key. As I ran the running path on Brickell Key, I saw a photo of the same view I had back in 1980, which at the time, was just a spoil island with nothing on it but dirt.


IMG_1202I was blown away by how many people were running all the time now.  Everywhere!


Someone told me that Miami often has 200 people on evening training runs. In 1980, I had to struggle to find a suitable place to run. Forget about finding another kindred soul to run with.


My friend lives on the 10th floor of a 30-story condo building. She has a gorgeous view out her window and has her bed right against the window so that she can fall asleep looking at the spectacular Miami skyline.


I found myself wanting to stay longer, yet as we drove down Biscayne Boulevard, I thought that Miami is more like New York City these days. Reluctantly, I got in the car and drove back to paradise on Anna Maria Island on the other side of the state.


IMG_1174As I drove down alligator Alley in the dark, I thought how lucky we are to live in a state that has such diversity. Miami really is like going to another country. In some ways, it felt so much more alive and vibrant. The demographics are quite different. I was aware of how many more younger people I saw. I also remembered how difficult it was to run on the sand there. And how much easier it is to do my almost daily runs on the level, ideally compact sand on Anna Maria Island.


A few days later, I got to run the Sheriff’s Activities League half marathon (13.1 miles) in Sarasota. I placed 5th in my age group (the 49th 5K or longer race I’ve placed in since 2006 “just” on plants).  My first half marathon placement. If I lived in larger cities, placing in my age group as often as I have may not be as easy. At my age, it can often be just about showing up.


IMG_1248In the mist, and dealing with a painful ankle as I experiment with shoes and orthotics to help my aging body deal with miles of hard asphalt, I didn’t achieve any records. I ran remembering the words of the publisher of the “Running Journal,” a magazine that I write for, as well as my coach: that currently being 7th in the US in my age group in the 1500 meters, after getting there from county and state competitions, means that it is rare for someone with my sprint times to have ever finished a marathon. Because Florida has such diverse and runner-friendly surfaces now, you can do it all, right here. Love our state. Gotta run!


Ellen Jaffe Jones is a certified personal trainer and running coach, and is the author of “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” and “Kitchen Divided.” Use “contact” for availability and rates.