This race has become a highlight of my fall running season. Over the past few years it has been the favorite destination race for my running group, the Gaston County Runners, with its flat course and beautiful run along Ocean Boulevard for the last 5 miles of the race, ending with a run up the boardwalk with the finish line at the site of the old Pavilion.
It was a little colder this year but still pleasant enough for late October. I wore gloves, tights, and had my ears covered with 180s throughout the race with temperatures warming only from the low 40s to high 40s. That was comfortable for me but of course resulted in the usual jokes about me not being able to handle the cold (which is true).
At last week’s half marathon my time was 1:41:19, and my goal for this race was to go under 1:40:00, which has been a rare occurrence for me this year. I felt pretty good as I warmed up during the first few miles, and as much as I dislike colder weather it probably helps my running times and it was a pleasant surprise to see that I was averaging closer to 7:20 per mile as opposed to the 7:40 that I’ve been running in half marathons. I recently bought a new running watch — Garmin Forerunner 225 — and it’s been a big help. In the past I’ve only monitored my heart rate, giving no thought to my pace, but I set my main “racing screen” (for lack of a better term) up to show current heart rate in the middle, current mile pace on top, and overall pace on the bottom. That allows me to consider both my heart rate and pace at once. I’m sure that’s just common sense to most people but it took me a while to figure out it would help me.
Back in April my running friend Danny McBee passed away unexpectedly. This was one of Danny’s favorite races, so this year many of his family members came down to watch one of Danny’s nephews, Robert McBee, run in honor of Danny. Although Robert had been a runner when he was younger, it had been many years since the now 48-year-old had run a half marathon. I spoke to him the night before the race and he told me that when he began training a few months ago he just hoped to finish in under 2 hours. When training went well he revised his goal to sub 1:50, and shortly before the race he decided he’d shoot for a time under 1:40. He jokingly said he’d try to keep up with me. I was impressed with the sub 1:40 goal and told him that if that was the case I’d be pretty far behind him since I’ve had a hard time breaking 1:40 this year.
As the race progressed I could see Robert out ahead of me occasionally, and about 2 miles from the finish on Ocean Boulevard I realized that there was no one between him and me. I was gaining gradually but not enough to catch him without putting some extra effort into it. About 1.5 miles from the finish I was still probably 20-30 yards behind him so I turned it up a notch and soon caught him. We talked a little and he thanked me for pushing him although I doubted he really needed me. We talked some about Danny and how he’d be proud to see us running along together near the finish line. We didn’t really talk about finishing together but I think it was understood. We just settled into what was a comfortably fast pace for both of us and glided together through the last mile and a half, and as we crossed the finish line we held hands and raised them high in honor of Danny. It was one of those special race memories that will always be remembered. It was also faster than either of us expected, with him easily beating his goal of 1:40 and me finishing my fastest half marathon of the year.
As I’ve come to expect, this race was again one of my favorite races of the year, with the only downside being the lack of professional photography. In the past there have been photographers along the course, along the boardwalk, and at the finish line. Sadly, this year the professional race photographers who had been working the race pulled out, reportedly because not enough people bought photos. On the bright side, the race organizers did manage to provide 300 or so free photos on their Facebook page, which included a couple of me, so I’m happy, but with 4,000+ runners in the two races I’m sure there were some disappointed runners who ended up with no photos at all. Would love to see about 10 times the number of free photos next year that would include the great majority of runners. Some races are doing that now and it’s a great perk for runners as well as a good selling point for the race.
Race Number: 312
Race Name: Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon
Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Date: October 18, 2015
Race Rating: 97
- M: Brett Morley (Age 23) (Greenville, SC) — 1:09:52
- F: Alyssa Bloomquist (Age 25)(Greenville, SC) — 1:18:16
Course: The race begins at the Coastal Grand Mall, which provides plenty of parking. It continues up Grissom Parkway, then a short stretch on the greenway, with the last stretch of more than 5 miles down Ocean Boulevard and back up the boardwalk to the site of the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion, with the after-party a block away at Plyler Park. It’s one of my favorite courses in more than 300 races, and those last 5 miles are spectacular. The entire course is almost completely flat with the exception of a small ramp leading to the greenway entrance. One small drawback of the point-to-point course is that the finish line is several miles from the starting line, but free bus transportation is provided back to the starting line with buses leaving every few minutes.
- Gain: 19 feet
- Loss: 26 feet
- Minimum Elevation: 7 feet
- Maximum Elevation: 36 feet
Weather at Start: 46 degrees, 53% humidity, winds NNE at 10 mph (felt like 42 degrees)
Age Group: 2 of 37
Overall: 72 of 2581
Average Heart Rate: 161
Maximum Heart Race: 169
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 1:16:04 (77.85%)
* RACE RATING *
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
5 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
5 – Course Scenery: (0-5) 1=bad and 5=fantastic
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
9 – Finish line: (0-9) 0=bad and 9=spectacular!
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
0 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
0 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
2 – Posted online within 24 hours: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Easy to find results: (0)no (1)yes
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
0 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
0 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
5 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
5 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
6 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
9 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
0 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
0 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice (5)beautiful!
2 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
x – Prices: (1)expensive (3)reasonable (5)cheap
5 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (1-10)yes
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
2 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Kids Fun Run: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Miscellaneous not covered above: (-10 to +10)