The final finisher of Sunday’s Miami Marathon was running on fumes. His mind was fried, unable to to perform simple math in his head. He hadn’t crossed an open aid station in over five hours. The longer he walked, the greater the pain. At 4:40 p.m., roughly 10 hours after his quest began, Andrew Otazo “waddled” across the finish line. He celebrated by collapsing onto a nearby bench. But you won’t find Otazo’s name in the official race results. “They took everything down by the time I got there,” he told Runner’s World by phone. “I have the best excuse in the world for finishing last. I had a 30-pound bag of trash on my back.” The idea was born from his time exploring a nature preserve near his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. Located just a few miles east of Miami, high tide waterflow through an accompanying channel tends to leave debris entangled in the exposed roots of indigenous red mangrove trees. Otazo says he and his partner began cleaning parts of the Bear Cut Preserve last year; he has since cleaned an estimated 6,500 pounds of discarded plastic, car parts, and “an unnerving amount” of underwear. “I wanted to produce a very blunt metaphor where I wanted to take the trash out of the swamp, build it into a bag, put it on my back, and then walk it the length of my marathon so that people could see it,” he said. Otazo realized he was in good enough shape to heft 30 pounds of garbage across 26.2 miles. He assembled a rig using debris found in Bear Cut Preserve, utilizing a mat as a base, a rope as netting, and two buoys as decorations. It was a decision he’d soon regret. “The two buoys would rub up against each other every step. Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak. Every step.” Otazo averaged a pace of 3 miles per hour over his 9-hour, 50-minute journey. On-course aid stations closed after he passed mile 11. His GPS watch died after 7 hours, around the same time his cognitive abilities began to decline. He was joined by friends for the final 10K but didn’t have the energy to crack jokes or finish complete sentences. Otazo says he was determined to finish barring a “serious” injury; he will spend the next few days nursing a banged-up hip. He thinks he most likely was also dehydrated. The 31-year-old had worn the pack on a few training walks prior to the marathon. He is no stranger to rucking, having attended West Point Military Academy for two years after high school. Otazo stresses his effort on a flat, paved course doesn’t compare to the marches performed by members of the armed forces, though the marathon was the most agonizing hike he’d ever “voluntarily” put himself through. “There’s no comparison to the worst race I’ve ever run,” the now six-time marathoner said. “It got to a point where I didn’t know if I was making up how much pain I was actually in. It was like my body didn’t know how to register the pain.” The marathon was part of a fundraiser for South Florida non-profit Miami Waterkeeper. Otazo has raised over $4,600, which will support cleaning beaches and mangrove forests and aid advocacy efforts to reduce single-use plastic distribution and consumption, such as grocery bags and plastic straws. We had to ask, for all of the energy he’s put towards conservation, was he tempted to pick up trash along the marathon course? “God no,” he laughed. “I needed to keep the ounces down as much as possible.”
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