Nun comes up short in race, not spirit

Sister Mary Beth Lloyd did not finish the 100-mile race from Key Largo to Key West over the weekend, but she said she accomplished her ultimate mission: getting the word out about the plight of the million kids orphaned by AIDS.

“I tried,” she said Sunday morning while preparing for the trip back to New Jersey. “I had a bunch of issues, and really had to stop. But we got the message out, and that was the goal.”

The 60-year-old nun — who ran in the tropical heat and humidity in her calf-length, black habit — covered 40 miles in 10 1/2 hours before stopping, in part because of ongoing stomach problems.

“That was definitely the right thing to do,” said her friend and coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, a legendary ultra-marathoner who paced Sister Mary Beth during the race. “Her dad was pretty emotional. It was pretty tough for him watching her suffer.”

Buddy Lloyd, 88, was on his daughter’s crew. He was concerned for his daughter’s health and wanted her to stop, arguing that she couldn’t help the children if she did permanent harm to herself, Smith-Batchen said.

“She was worried about how her dad was feeling,” Smith-Batchen said. “Mentally, it was affecting her.”

And, just before Sister Mary Beth decided to stop, a car almost hit her. Smith-Batchen said she had to push her out of the way of the oncoming vehicle on the course that followed the heavily traveled Overseas Highway.

The second annual KEYS100 race, with more than 300 participants, started in the dark, at 6 a.m. Saturday, at mile marker 101.5.

Sister Mary Beth, Smith-Batchen and three other women coached by Smith-Batchen made the first 25-mile checkpoint in 7 1/2 hours.

The group’s two support vans had signs encouraging people to check out, a Web site that explains how Sister Mary Beth’s order, Religious Teachers Filippini, is trying to help children who not only have to fend for themselves, but also take care of younger siblings after their parents have died of AIDS.

Sister Mary Beth has completed several marathons. Last year, she finished a grueling, 50-mile mountain trail race in Wyoming, as well as running nearly 100 miles in another event that included parts of Death Valley, where temperatures soared above 120 degrees.

Smith-Batchen said the sun was intense Saturday, and Sister Mary Beth, who must wear her habit at all times in public, could never get cool enough during the race.

Smith-Batchen dropped out with Sister Mary Beth and helped crew for the other three in their group. Two dropped out at the end of the Seven Mile Bridge, near mile marker 40.

“There were five of us and one finished — Brittni, our iron woman,” Sister Mary Beth said.

Brittni Radford, 30, of Wasilla, Alaska, the hometown of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, kept going and finished in 29 hours and 13 minutes.

Sunday morning, Sister Mary Beth was back to her chipper self. She ran 10 miles and said, “I’m fine, thank God.”