Best Road Race for Runners 2005 | Marathon of the Palm Beaches | Sports | South Florida

OK, so it's an obvious choice, but so was West Palm Beach's scenic, sinuous Flagler Drive as the setting for the first marathon ever held in Palm Beach County. Flagler's tree-lined ribbon of asphalt uncoils alongside the Intracoastal and weaves through several historic neighborhoods, displaying some of the area's most appealing assets along the way. Although the weather last November 14 was far from the subtropical splendor race officials had hoped for, an almost totally level course kept the competition as fierce as the wind and rain. More than 3,500 competitors from 17 countries took the challenge, but it was Kenyan runner Charles Kibiwot who broke the tape, finishing the 26.2-mile course in just under two hours and 20 minutes. The marathon offered some unusual local color as well: Part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump supplied his Trump Ice bottled water to filling stations along the course, some of which were occupied by volunteers dressed as hula dancers and tie-dyed hippies. It all came together flawlessly, and a second marathon, this one open to 5,000 runners, is scheduled for early December.

You've been to Naples, gotten lost in the Everglades, and burnt your epidermis on the beach. But have you ever circumnavigated the second-largest freshwater lake in the nation? It's a nice tour by car and takes you through five counties: Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach, Martin, and Okeechobee. Our preferred way to cruise around the 730-square-mile lake is counterclockwise. From Florida's southeast coast, head west for Belle Glade and then Pahokee. No need to linger, except to gawk at the poverty-prone towns that look more like old WPA photographs than part of 21st-century Palm Beach County. Continue north on Highway 441, but remember to stop and check out boats passing through the locks at Port Mayaca. Pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and great blue herons are some of the wading birds you'll see. On the north side of the lake is a bastion of Central Florida hickdom, the town of Okeechobee, a rowdy, rodeo-show retreat. Continue on past turf farms growing acres of sod and cows munching on grass until you're on the west side of the lake, home to marshland and citrus groves. This largely unpopulated flank sports a few sleepy old farming and fishing communities, with pickups parked along lonely canals, folks pulling catfish from the water all day long.

Curving down south, make time for a stop in Clewiston, where Angler's Marina offers one of the best views of the entire lake and the fleet of boats that ply its waters. Clewiston is also the finest place to stop for lunch. Dixie Fried Chicken (728 E. Sugarland Hwy.) can set you up with frog legs, gator tail, and catfish, but it would be a sin not to mention the best Mexican food anywhere in South Florida, which can be found from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Tortilleria y Taqueria (645 S. San Jose St.). No-nonsense proprietress Magdaelena Azua serves bistec, pastor, and lengua tacos -- served on homemade corn tortillas -- which are startlingly cheap at $1.25 a pop. On the way home, stop off at the aptly named John Stretch Park in tiny Lake Harbor and walk to the top of the Herbert Hoover dike. Say goodbye to the hinterlands and its liquid heart of the Everglades and head for home.

The Marinelife Center has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1983, when it opened in borrowed space in a real-estate agent's office. Now, the center cares for about 1,500 turtles a year. Most are hatchlings that couldn't make it to the ocean, but many are injured or sick sea turtles brought to the center for rehab. Fishing equipment and boat propellers cause the most damage. But turtles also convalesce at the center for shark bites and another widespread turtle ailment: flatulence. Yes, gas, which prevents turtles from sinking (as you'd guess, they're fed Beano). Visitors can view the turtles as they rehab in tanks in the center's backyard and watch as they're fed sardines by the six paid staff and a team of volunteers. During turtle egg-laying season in the summer, the center also leads nighttime beach walks and has a "junior marine biologist" program for teenagers. And soon, the center will spend $4 million in donations on a new, 10,000-square-foot facility that will triple its existing building. That is quite a ways from sharing space with a real-estate agent.

In his four years as a Miami Dolphin, Chris Chambers hasn't been the kind of player to make a showy victory dance in the end zone, even though he's been there more often than any other receiver on the team. He hasn't been the kind of player to boast about his accomplishments either, despite racking up better than 900 yards a season (a total of 3,478). So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that last year, the Cleveland native bit his tongue as the Dolphins stank up the NFL. But it's a credit to Chambers that he not only avoided complaining during the Dolphins worst season in 35 years but that he also shone. The Wisconsin alumnus managed a career-high 69 catches, 974 yards, and seven touchdowns during a year when the offense was the NFL equivalent of junior varsity. Chambers credits his quiet demeanor to being a "nappy-headed" kid with an embarrassing chipped tooth. Nicknamed "Spiderman" as a teenager for his lanky limbs, the 26-year-old has shut up his childhood bullies with a gutsy performance on a team in which many veterans seemed to give up.

Get your wine-sniffing, Bravo-watching, Lexus-driving self out of the cloistered condo canyons and yacht lots of beachside Broward. If you drive 20 minutes west, you'll find yourself in the middle of Oklahoma, or something like it. Then open your color-contacted eyes and behold: Little girls in cowboy hats are petting enormous, Argentine hunting hounds. Improbably beautiful young couples -- the gals with tall cowboy boots and short skirts, the guys with thick arms and tucked-in shirts -- suck down cheap domestic beer. Children and parents all laugh at the same rodeo clown or gasp at a 1,300-pound bull stomping a thrown rider's fortified vest. You might even glimpse a family of Orthodox Jews conversing in Yiddish. It's not another country. But it is country.

This gym on the seventh floor of the AutoNation skyscraper sits directly across the street from the Broward County Courthouse and is surrounded by law offices. Thus, entering its locker room is like taking a trip to Lawyerville; it's populated by legal experts who work out on weekdays. Everywhere, even when clothing is minimal, cell phones are a must. (There's even a phone right on the locker room wall.) It's common to overhear snippets like, "Eighty-three million? There's no way we're settling for less than 86 mil -- I told him that!" Face it, when you hear someone say "Do you want to be able to see your kids again?" -- and it's not a threat made in a movie but privileged attorney/client discussion of a child-custody hearing -- ears tend to prick up. Lawyers flirt with secretaries. Maybe even set up secret trysts. And you're sure to hear about Mr. Big Shot's ski trip to Aspen or the huge case Mr. So-and-So just won. Who knows? You might even get a stock tip, you pathetic, poverty-stricken turd.

Near Port Everglades, John Lloyd has two miles of beach. On a ridge above the sand are picnic tables shaded by huge Australian pines. That's really all you need for a wonderful afternoon soirée, but Lloyd doesn't stop there. Like to fish? You can do it on the north end of the park from a paved jetty. Feel like doing a dive? Swim out in the water until you are about even with the Dania Beach Pier, which is to your south, and then dive down to see some of the sea's delights. You can find sponges, gorgonians, and coral. Care for a hike? The park comes complete with a large forest, or hammock as they are called in these parts, with a 45-minute self-guided trail. But you might want to do what we do -- just kick back and enjoy a little paradise.

Finding the right picnicking spot in South Florida seems simple enough; all you need is a place where your ham and cheese sandwich won't melt inside its plastic bag -- if that doesn't melt too. You need shade, but the pavilion at your neighborhood park is always full of rambunctious toddlers and their scolding parents. And besides, pavilions aren't that great for picnicking anyway. Isn't the whole point to be in a natural setting, dining beneath a tree? At Gulfstream Park, there are enough trees to cover whatever party you have planned, whether it's a double date or a family reunion. Not to be confused with the Hallandale Beach horse track of the same name, the only stakes at this Gulfstream Park are the steaks you grill. The park runs along the west side of a naturally canopied hill, scattered with picnic tables and grills, as well as a play area to keep the kids busy. On the east side of the hill is a public beach, which means cool ocean air in lieu of the humidity of inland parks. If you're hot, you can take a swim; you have the option. After all, this is Florida -- why wouldn't you picnic at the beach?

Pileated woodpecker

Black-and-white warbler

Limpkin, mourning dove

Great-crested flycatcher

Glaucous gull, rock dove

Solitary vireo

Cattle egret, snowy egret

House sparrow, oriole

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Ovenbird, sandpiper

Screech owl, fish crow

Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Binoculars, bug spray

Comfy shoes, half a day

Go slow, soak in

Fern Forest's aviary.

On the 37-mile stretch of sand between Lake Worth Beach and Fort Lauderdale Beach, you're pretty much dealing with blue herons and bluehairs. It's just nature interspersed with condos -- or the other way around. It's quiet. It's calm. It's pretty freakin' boring. Except for one shining spot of beach-worthy bodies and beachfront bars: Deerfield Beach. Of course, this spot has palm trees, turquoise waters, and beach umbrellas -- but so does every other beach from here to Jacksonville. What sets Deerfield apart is the action. You can tell from the bike racks and five permanent volleyball courts that this is not the destination for people who want to lie around and imitate a dying manatee. No, this is the beach for hot lifeguards, spring breakers, and surfers. Go-getters angle on the fishing pier, a blimp chills overhead, and a dude bangs on the steel drum at JB's on the Beach while the bartender doles out mojitos. Everything else you might want is available in the nearby cluster of shops. Need a glass pipe or 40 kinds of rolling papers? Cross the street and hit Lazydaze. A surfboard? Run over to Island Water Sports. A fish taco? Rattlesnake Jake's. A fanny pack, a mood ring, or a man bikini? Go to Wings. Gelato? You can get that inside the post office!

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