Reunion at the Beach: Myrtle Beach Marathon, SC (March 5, 2016)

This entire weekend was packed with fun and activity, from our arrival in South Carolina on Friday to our departure early on Sunday morning. Darcy and I left Florida around 6 am on Friday to make the 9-hour drive to Myrtle Beach. We picked up a quick breakfast at McDonald’s and made it all the way to our hotel, the Fairfield Inn, by 2:30. There were a number of host hotels for this race (the Fairfield Inn was just one) and all offered shuttles to and from the expo and the start and finish lines. A shuttle wasn’t really necessary, though, because everything was just a short distance away, certainly no more than a mile, and there was plenty of parking available, and most of it free, though the expo at Sports Center charged $5 per car.

My first Myrtle Beach Marathon was back in 2011. The year before, the race had been canceled because of a freak winter snow storm, but I had figured that would probably not happen two years in a row so I signed up. My memories of that first experience were favorable; it was a very enjoyable course in a pleasant beach town. When I realized that the 50 States Marathon Club was planning to have its first quarter reunion of 2016 at Myrtle Beach, it was an easy decision to sign up again.

After checking into our hotel, we walked around Broadway at the Beach, an extensive boardwalk that encircles Lake Broadway. There are shops, attractions like zip-lines and an aquarium, and lots of restaurants.   Darcy had done his homework and selected Rooster’s for our afternoon meal. I tried their local draft beer with flatbread pizza, Darcy had cider and a burger, and we both inhaled some great onion rings. Satiated, we drove to the expo (though I was more than willing to walk so I could burn some of those calories). The reunion meeting was set for 4 pm and we were right on time.

If you’ve never attended a 50 State Marathon Club reunion before, you might be surprised at how well-organized and enjoyable they are. I’ve been to at least 5 reunions and they have all been extremely worthwhile. Of course, my favorite was the one held in Atlanta at the Georgia Marathon in 2012 because that was when I was officially recognized as a certified finisher and given my trophy. But all of them are certainly worth attending. I enjoy meeting other 50 Staters and sharing entertaining stories and experiences in a relaxed atmosphere. I’m sure there is a tremendous amount of work involved in setting up and coordinating a successful reunion, so I offer sincere thanks to Steve and Paula Boone, Dave Bell, Lois Berkowitz, Barb Wnek, and any others whose names I may have missed for putting on such a great event.

The reunion ended around 6 pm and we all posed for a group photo before Darcy and I headed to the main expo area so I could get my race packet. This was straightforward. A volunteer looked up my number and I was given my bib, shirt, and bag with information booklet. The shirt was short-sleeved grey tech, with brightly colored numbers and letters on the front.

Both the start and finish of the marathon, half marathon, and relay are close to Broadway at the Beach Since all races were set to begin at 6:30 am and it was pretty chilly that early in the morning, Darcy drove me to the start so we could park in one of the many parking spots close by. After a quick trip to one of the numerous portapotties, I sat in a snug warm car until about 15 minutes before race time. Then I joined the hordes of runners and walkers who were starting to line up along Grissom Parkway. Only racers were allowed inside the corral area so Darcy kissed me goodbye, wished me luck, and drove back to the hotel to sleep.

Meanwhile, I lined up behind the last pace group sign, 5:30, and tried to stay warm while I people-watched. The National Anthem was sung at 6:15 and runners were exhorted to line up with full marathoners on the right side of the parkway and half marathoners on the left. At 6:30 on the button, a horn sounded and we took off. It only took about 2 minutes for me to cross the starting line, even with 1800 full participants.

The race was as much fun as any marathon distance can be – the course itself is an elongated rectangle, essentially pancake flat, all on road, with an entire lane coned off for runners. Although I prefer some hills and elevation to break up the monotony and to give different muscles a chance to work, I didn’t have any difficulty with shin splints or blisters. Because of several out-and-back portions, it is easy to see fellow racers and cheer them on. Despite a brisk wind, my favorite section was along Ocean Boulevard. That may be because I could occasionally view the ocean at different points, but also because those were the miles I spent chatting with Guinness marathon record holder Larry Macon. The later miles also were pleasant; talking to fellow quilter Cheryl made the miles practically fly past.

I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 6:06 and placed third in my age group. The medal is in the shape of a pair of gold flip-flops, very fitting for this beach race. Post-race food included chocolate milk (hooray!), fruit, bags of chips, and bagel halves. There may have been some hot soup too but that was gone by the time I finished. No problem, I was ready for some real eats after my shower. Darcy and I had a filling meal at Good Time Charley’s before I called it a day. All in all, a very rewarding race, with the bonus of a great 50 State Club reunion.

The marathon has a 7-hour time limit, few turns, and a number of back-of-the-packers. Highly recommended for walkers.

 

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