Jason Ayr and Samantha Roecker traveled from Philadelphia for a quick winter getaway and won the inaugural Fort Myers race as a bonus. Edward Reed, Fort Myers News-Press


Jason Ayr and Samantha Roecker just wanted to get away.

They couldn’t bear the prospect of another cold and snowy Philadelphia weekend. So a quick web search for flights brought up a cheap one to Fort Myers and another search scored 50 percent off an Estero hotel, so they were on a plane Wednesday for Florida.

Task two: Find a race.  

And the inaugural Lazy Flamingo Half Marathon, which wound through Whiskey Creek and up McGregor Boulevard and back Sunday morning, fit the bill.

Ayr took the men’s division in 1:10:53, while Roecker, who added another half-mile due to a wrong turn, won the women’s race in 1:25:10.

Sunday’s run provided another training opportunity for Roecker, who is ranked the 12th US women’s marathon runner and has qualified for the US Olympic Trials which will be held Feb. 29, 2020 in Atlanta for a chance at the Tokyo Games.

“We needed a break from the freezing cold,” said Roecker, who trains around her full-time job as a nurse. “I’ll take this any day, the heat and humidity.”

Roecker found the podium in her last big race in December, placing third at the California International Marathon in 2:30:25, which was eight minutes faster than her previous best in a field full of the nation’s elite distance runners. 

The 27-year-old, who competed at Providence College, plans to focus on her training over the next year and not so much on races.

“Maybe one more marathon, I’m not sure yet, definitely another half marathon or two,” she said. “Consistency, just consistent training, kinda getting in good solid workouts and races. I think the biggest part of putting together a good marathon is just consistent training.

“The last marathon I did was my best one that I’ve done, so I’m hoping to continue to improve.”

Ayr said the couple mostly sat around the pool working remotely Thursday and Friday and will take the rest of Sunday to sight see before flying back to Philadelphia.


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“I thought it was perfect. It was a nice, early start so we can be tourists for the rest of the day,” said Ayr, 31.

“They were saying this is the first year that this was the course, and they did a great job with it. I think it’s going to be a successful event.”

Race director JeAnne Hertel said 385 runners competed this year and Lazy Flamingo and the Fort Myers Track Club have already committed to the race again next year. Hertel believes The City of Palms Half Marathon run Saturday at FGCU took some numbers from Sunday’s race, but sees a bright future for the event.

“The feedback we’ve gotten back has been fantastic,” Hertel said. “They love the course, they love the volunteers. It’s worked out really well.

“This is a tough course to get approved, so we had to go through all the prior approvals,” Hertel said of the route that closed down lanes along McGregor Boulevard and College Parkway. “We had to fight hard for this course and it took a little while to get it online, but that’s OK. We’re going to stay in this time slot.”

Local runners finished second in both divisions. Ross Lenehan of Cape Coral finished in 1:14:04 while Diana Sitar of Fort Myers crossed in 1:25:26.

Lenehan ran a marathon two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale, but didn’t think it would have mattered.

“I did OK. It wasn’t my best day,” said Lenehan, 31. “I wouldn’t have caught him even if I was running on my best day.”

Sitar was surprised to hear she finished behind one of the top distance runners in the country.

“I’m very happy how it went,” said Sitar, 33. “I ran one of my best times ever.”


1. JASON AYR, Philadelphia, 1:10:53
2. ROSS LENEHAN, Cape Coral, 1:14:04
3. OSCAR CORREDOR, Fort Myers, 1:25:10
4. JOHN HALLEY, Fort Myers, 1:27:28
5. JEFF EAST, Fort Myers, 1:29:16 
6. DARIN DE LELYS, Fort Myers, 1:30:10 
7. CHRIS CAJOLET, Vineyard Haven, Mass., 1:30:31
8. WILLIAM VALENTI, Fort Myers, 1:30:37
9. MIKE HAMMERSLEY, Fort Myers, 1:31:08

10. JON WILLIAMS, Cape Coral, 1:31:51

1. SAMANTHA ROECKER, Philadelphia, 1:25:10 
2. DIANA SITAR, Fort Myers, 1:25:26

3. EMILY EDWARDS, Cape Coral, 1:31:12
4. KATHRYN REPPERGER, Cape Coral, 1:35:30
5. FLORENCE CRAWFORD, Fort Myers, 1:36:09
6. SAMANTHA KEE, Fort Myers, 1:37:32
7. LETTY LUNDQUIST, Fort Myers, 1:39:45 
8. LYNN-MARIE LARIVIERE, Cape Coral, 1:40:02 
9. LORI ROBBINS, Fort Myers, 1:42:13
10. MANUELA LYONS, Fort Myers, 1:42:49