A Glorious Day at the Beach: The Bi-Low Myrtle Beach Marathon, February 19, 2011

This race turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. Last year the city canceled all the events because of an unexpected snowstorm (just a few inches, but in the South that’s enough to disarm folks unused to getting around in snow). This year the weather was close to perfect – perhaps some thought it a bit too warm and humid with a fairly strong headwind but I thought it was just fine (although it might have been nice to have the wind behind me once in a while).
It took me exactly 8 hours to drive up to South Carolina, even with several pit stops, and I found my way to the host hotel, the Sheraton, without any difficulty. My room wasn’t ready yet so I left my suitcase in the car and walked over to the convention center next door to pick up my packet and wander around the small but organized expo. Lots of goodies, including a big beach towel (appropriate for a marathon in a beach town), a colorful short-sleeve tech shirt, and a backpack with zipper. Towel, shirt, and backpack were color-coordinated in bright tropical colors. Afterwards, I wandered down to the oceanfront and explored a little, then back to the hotel to check in and get things ready for race morning, and then once more outside to locate the marathon start. This took me a few blocks in the opposite direction of my earlier walk, at an entertainment complex called Broadway on the Beach, a good place to explore if I had had more time here. Unfortunately, I was on a strict time schedule, so returning to Myrtle Beach is on my list of places to revisit.
Race morning weather was in the 50’s and felt warmer. I jettisoned my jacket and decided to simply wear a throwaway top over my usual tee shirt and vest. No mittens or gloves needed, no scarf or vest either – it was great to dress lightly. Both the marathon and half marathon began at 6:30 am, and participants for each race were told to line up in their respective sides of the street. For the first mile or so, racers kept to their ‘side’ which lessened congestion considerably. Half marathoners split off from the full course just past mile eleven, but because there were about 1700 full marathoners, there was never a feeling of being alone on the second half of the course. Any concerns about getting lost were needless. There were always people in front of me to serve as my guides. And there was great traffic control, plenty of aid stations, some with fruit but all with water and Powerade, and enthusiastic volunteers and helpful police. Spectators were primarily tourists at the hotels and condos along the route; they clapped and smiled, rang cowbells, and waved with enthusiasm. The course is open for 8 hours, so it is a wonderful race for walkers.
Although the course did not go on the beach and there was no real boardwalk, the course was varied enough that I did not get bored. Pretty flat, with only a few minor elevations, no downhills to speak of, I could easily understand people getting a PR here. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me, perhaps I was still fatigued from Mercedes, but I did finish in 5:47 gun time. My watch said 5:45 but I can’t corroborate that because it seems there was a snafu with the timing device (a foam rectangle attached to the bib, different from the one used in Waco and others I’ve used) and chip times did not register. There were several timing mats on the course but apparently splits never registered at all. To me, this was a minor inconvenience, but others might have found it more problematic. Neat medal in the shape of beach sandals, gold for marathoners, silver for those doing the half. As a result of this race, I was left with a very positive impression of Myrtle Beach and a definite hope to return, both to do the marathon again and to spend a bit longer exploring the town itself.

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