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This episode is about our experience running the Myrtle Beach Marathon in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The Myrtle Beach Marathon is in its 17th year and also features a half marathon, 5k and family fun run the night before. They also brought back the marathon relay this year.
The Myrtle Beach area has approximately 60 miles of shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean and around 30,000 permanent residents. However they get an estimated 15 million tourists per year. It’s actually very cost effective to visit in the off season as most of the hotels and eating establishments are nearly empty.
The race partners with the Rare Species Fund, a non-profit conservation program, and Ripley’s Aquarium (you can get a discount on entry with your race bib). This area, known as the “Grand Strand” must be the mini-golf capitol of the world, although the majority are closed in Feb.
The Race ExpoThe expo was located at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and was on the small side. However it was well organized and provided easy access to bib pickup and race shirts. Volunteers were friendly and helpful.
Swag for the race included a backpack, a gender specific cotton/poly shirt (which ran rather small) and socks. The bib was personalized so that was an extra bonus (it’s always nice to get some shout-outs during the race). Expo hours went until 9pm and they also allowed for bib number pickup on race morning due to many runners facing inclement weather on their trip.
They had chimpanzees and service dogs at the expo and a few vendors. After getting our stuff we went and checked into our hotel which was a suite overlooking the ocean. Although the room hadn’t been updated since the early 90’s it was spacious and reasonably priced. We went and had dinner at a restaurant called Bummz Beach Cafe, watched some Winter Olympics on television and went to bed early.
Our alarm started blaring at 2am (wait, that wasn’t our alarm, it was the smoke detector). The smoke alarm *helpfully* went off again at 3:30 am and then at one and a half hour intervals for the rest of the day until Trevor disconnected them all. Despite our spotty night of sleep we got ready for the marathon, got our Ucan and race fuels together and headed out of the hotel around 5:20am.
It was pouring rain outside (NO!) so we made a dash to the car. Once safely inside our vehicle I noticed a message on my phone from a coaching client at the race asking if we had any electrolyte tablets. Trevor gallantly ran back to the room for some Hammer Endurolytes.
As we drove the short distance to the race traffic was fairly light. Parking was easy, free and we were able to get close to the starting line at Pelican’s Field. It was still raining and around 40 degrees and breezy by this time. It wasn’t very fun to get out of the warm car and walk to the start line (the things we do for the love of running). We had our throw away shirts on, a plastic garbage bag over top (always a great fashion statement) and hats. There were lots of port-a-pots with short lines (bonus), but not many places to find shelter from the rain.
The CourseThe race provided several pace teams, had good traffic control, contained minimal course congestion, had fluid stations every two miles, provided two food stations, and had medical stations every three miles. They also had highly visible mile marker flags to track the distance. It was a point to point, very flat course with three small out and back sections–perfect for setting a PR or for someone who doesn’t train on hills.
The race started in town and had you run by the requisate warehouses, shops and homes before we hit Ocean Blvd around mile seven. We stayed on Ocean Blvd for approximately ten miles and ran past many hotels, palm trees, resorts, small shops (including the iconic Gay Dolphin), homes and ocean views. Spectators were minimal, the weather was cool and windy with a tailwind until mile 17 and then a strong headwind to the finish. There were a few bands and some of the aid stations had music playing.
A friend, Beth, met me just after mile 13 with a ziplock bag of bacon. I’ve often mentioned wanting something salty in the later miles and she kindly remembered. I ate a piece at mile 16 and a couple more pieces at the finish line (yum!). My main marathon fuel was vanilla Ucan protein formula which worked great.
Do you ever focus on weird things when you’re running? I guess I do because some of the things I noticed was a driver “expertly” backing their car into a pole and a squirrel running across the road (they have short legs but are super fast).
I ran with Brittney (a MTA listener) and Jake (fellow Marathon Maniac) for several miles and that helped to pass the time. Overall I feel like I ran a smart race with a steady pace and nearly even split. I pushed myself but was still able to talk occasionally too. All in all, it was a great course and nearly perfect day for a marathon.
One bonus to spectators and runners was that the race offered free runner tracking and live results immediately after you finish.
The Finish Line
I got my usual burst of energy in the final 1.2 miles and finished in 3:54:43. I got my medal and waited around for Trevor who finished in 3:56:35. He was close on my heels even though we didn’t run together. Trevor awesomely helped pace a first-time marathoner the last few miles to a sub-4:00 finish. There wasn’t any water or mylar blankets readily available at the finish line and you had to go to another section for food and drinks. The race offered free beer, sports drinks, chocolate milk, a cup of fruit, oranges, bananas, pretzels, bagels, and chicken noodle soup (although this was gone when I was there). Overall the finish line area was fine, but not spectacular. They did offer a free post race party in the evening at the House of Blues which we were unable to attend.
The hardest part of a marathon is the 27th mile (the slog to the car). It was cold after the race because of the wind and my teeth were chattering by the time we sloshed through the wet grass and muddy patches and made it back to the car. Heated seats have never felt so good!
After the race and a good shower we went to Ripley’s Aquarium with the kids. Then we headed to our MTA meet up at The Original Benjamin Calabash Seafood Buffet. It was great meeting up with Kathy from OH; Foti and family from NJ; Vivian, Steve and sons from VA; Chris and Ariann from PA; Johari from PA; Beth from FL; Ed from HI; and Christelle (we forgot to ask where she was from). We enjoyed some great food and conversation. The perfect way to top off an awesome day.
Deb Traver is a runner, outdoor enthusiast, cartographer and GIS specialist. She created a customized marathon map for me and can do the same for you. Click here to see my awesome marathon map.