Francis Marion Dirt Dash Half Marathon Recap

First, if you haven’t already registered to win a *free* entry into the Reebok Spartan Race of your choice, go register now! Contest ends on September 15 and the odds are pretty good.

Now, for your regularly scheduled race recap…


I’m sure most of you know I’m a supporter of Eagle Endurance trail running (if you don’t, you need to read this blog post about them). I think they’re a great organization bringing affordable, fun, trail runs to the Lowcountry.

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My first Eagle Endurance race was last year’s Francis Marion Dirt Dash 12K, and when I had the opportunity to do the half marathon this year, I couldn’t pass it up.

Since I’m training for the Darlington Marathon and intend to give 100% there, I decided I could use the Francis Marion Dirt Dash half marathon as a “fast long run” rather than a “race”. That way, I could have a feel for pacing during the marathon, especially since I hadn’t done a legitimate, timed, half marathon since January (but I did two very fun rogue races: the May Day half marathon and the Midnight on Folly half marathons!).

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I’m not normally a trail runner, but I knew running on trails would slow me down vs. the road- and I liked that. Since I wasn’t “in it to win it” in this race, I didn’t mind slowing down a little. I knew it wouldn’t be a PR in September heat and on trails, so I was mentally okay with giving 80-90%. Every runner who races a lot learns quickly that you cannot give 100% in every race if you do 3-4 races per month. It just ain’t happenin’.

Clay signed up for the “More than a 5K” 3.4 mile run and both of us left our home in West Ashley at 5:45 Saturday morning to make the 7 AM start time. It was a 45 minute drive, then we were bussed to the start by a tour bus. Good thing the driver was awake and alert and didn’t try to take us to the aquarium or museum! We got there just in time for a potty break, and we were off, with the half marathoners and 12Kers starting just before the 5K runners.

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The Francis Marion Dirt Dash half marathon course was mostly dirt roads, so it wasn’t technical or hard. The course had some patches of gravel though- so one of my major accomplishments of this race was not wiping out because I can be a klutz!

One area detoured through the woods, and I missed the turn. I wasn’t looking at the arrows on the ground pointing me, and I guess I was in one of those “running dazes”. Some other runners turned me around, and the missed turn cost me some time- but I really didn’t care since the turn was at mile 4 and I wasn’t going all out anyway.

The race had aid stations galore (like 5-6 stops), and they were well stocked with Gu, water, and some really bad tasting electrolyte drink. I’m sure it’s healthy, but I definitely took water! The stations were manned by JROTC kids from Wando High School, and one boy wore a horse mask when he was handing out water- it was a humorous touch at Mile 10 of a half marathon.

The JROTC members were super enthusiastic; they cheered for the runners and made sure we had water or our choice of gel. They also disposed of all trash, so we kept the Francis Marion Forest as clean, or possibly cleaner, than we found it.

After the gravel trap of mile 9 and the horse mask wearing JROTC kid, I decided to speed up slightly to get the race over with. By that time, all I could think about was getting my finisher’s medal and my breakfast (or some form of non-Gu food). I knew it was just a 5K, so I picked up the pace slightly. I ran over the bridge and around a curve in the dirt road to see the finish, the cheering, and the time clock… and of course, I heard my TrySports friends with the cowbell!

I finished the Francis Marion Dirt Dash half in 1:54:12– pretty good for 13.27 miles! I was also second in my age group. The girl who won it passed me in the last mile, and I guess if I hadn’t missed that turn, I probably would have taken the age group glory. I won’t complain- things happen, and my main goal was to get a fun, fast, long run in. A trail half marathon on a hot, humid, September day is nothing to laugh at!

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Clay was third in his age group. He was wiped out and he didn’t act like it was a big deal, since only 3 guys were in the age group, but he really did great. Clay’s worked really hard at his running lately (until we both got sick this week and became “physically unable to perform”), and I’m very proud of him. Of all the 25-29 year old guys in the Charleston area, three came out at 7 AM to run 3.4 miles on a trail, and he was one of them. That’s pretty impressive!

After the race, getting out of the forest, and showering at the house, my half marathoner appetite was fully kicked in, so we headed to Mex 1 Coastal Cantina in West Ashley to refuel. It’s one of our favorite restaurants, and we hadn’t been in awhile. I ate some delicious Bangin’ Shrimp Tacos and wore my medal the whole time. It is a great medal!

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After lunch, I spent the rest of the day relaxing, baking cookies, and watching football. It sucks that my team (Carolina) didn’t pull off a victory, but it was still awesome for me to have one at the half marathon.

Overall, I really liked this race and would do it again. It’s one of only a few options for Fall half marathons or trail half marathons. Chad of Eagle Endurance does a great job each year. The only issue we had was that the t-shirts this year were cut very small, and Clay’s shirt doesn’t fit. The shirts seem small in general (including my XS), and it’s not something the race director can really control, but hopefully they’ll have a different brand/make next year. It is a tech shirt and everyone who ran got a tech shirt (including 5K and 12K), so that was nice.

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A well-groomed trail, great aid stations, a medals and awards, even free beer at the finish line- all of these make for an awesome race at the Francis Marion Dirt Dash. I’m very glad I did it!


As a TrySports Mt. Pleasant athlete ambassador, I received a complimentary race entry, as TrySports sponsors the race; however, all opinions expressed are my own and I am especially grateful for TrySports’ support to our local races, running community, and to my own training.

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This entry was posted in Awendaw, Believe Achieve Run Club, Half Marathon, Race Recaps, Trail running and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Francis Marion Dirt Dash Half Marathon Recap

  1. ahellams says:

    What an awesome race…congrats on your award!!

  2. Marcia says:

    You did SO great! Congrats!

  3. Congrats on a great run! You are soo ready for the marathon! Hope you are feeling better! Trail running is something I haven’t tackled….yet. 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- I’m feeling much better.

      I do 1-2 trail races per year, but this was my longest one yet. I’d do the half again though- if I’m waking up super early and driving 45 minutes to a race, I gotta make it worth it! Most people seemed to be running the half.

  4. spectacuLAUR says:

    Congrats on the finish! It is a good time for a hot and humid day! I would never be able to run in humidity. My lungs are not a fan! And free beer at the end of the course is NEVER a bad idea lol!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Hehe, I can’t imagine drinking after a race but plenty of people do :). Any race with free beer always draws a big crowd down here.

      Your lungs get used to the humidity here… honestly, I have never known anything different though. But my friends who’ve moved from other cities said it was rough the first year or so but they got used to it, kinda like how people from the South get used to the winters up north, the first year is the worst.

  5. Sounds like a great race! Congratulations to you both.

  6. Amanda says:

    Great report! I like the board they gave you, That was pretty cool!

  7. chasingthekenyans says:

    Great job! That’s a fantastic time for a trail run (even if it isn’t what most think of as a trail). Congrats on 2nd place too – I love the unique award!

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