Hey guys! I’ve obviously taken a few days off the running (and blogging) scene to rest and recover from the Darlington Marathon.
I’m not beating myself up over the marathon. 26.2 miles does a pretty good job of beating a person up without any self-inflicted pity wounds on top of it.
A 4:15 in conditions I couldn’t avoid wasn’t awful, but now I want to sign up for every non-marathon race possible. Maybe I realized how much I love shorter races, or maybe I want a good performance in another distance to redeem myself for last Saturday. I think it’s both!
Despite my confidence that I’m capable of a better marathon time, I have no plans of signing up for another 26.2 anytime soon to beat 4:15.
Before resuming training and signing up for more races, I wanted to write about the good, bad, and the ugly of the Darlington Marathon (my feedback was offered to the organizer, too- so this isn’t just some sort of blog rant).
As an inaugural race, you never know what to expect. Knowing a lot of people like the reviews, I owe it to the running community to give an honest review, rather than just an emotional recap, which you can read here.
The medal – The medal for the full Darlington Marathon is pretty awesome. It’s big, heavy, and kinda gaudy, which is what a race medal should be. Face it, no one wears the medals after the first weekend or so, but everyone wants a neat one to display, and this one is.
I like that the medal actually says 26.2 on it and is in the shape of the race track. “The race too tough to tame” is a great name for it, since the Darlington Raceway is nicknamed the “track too tough to tame”. The ribbon is also pretty neat, with the checkered flag. If you’re a NASCAR fan, it would definitely look neat around your NASCAR memorabilia. We’re not NASCAR fans, but it’ll look nice on my running medal display!
The half marathon medal was also awesome- half marathoners also got a finisher’s medal that looks similar to the full medal, but smaller and also lighter.
The price – The Darlington Marathon was one of the cheaper marathons I’ve seen. If you’re on the house poor summer tour or just like to register for a lot of races, this is one way to keep your costs down if you’re in SC. If you’re not as lucky as I am to have wonderful in-laws who let you stay with them, hotel rooms in the area are also relatively inexpensive.
With that said, you usually get what you pay for in sports and in life. Packet pick up was just that- packet pick up. You could walk through the NASCAR museum (normally a $5 entry fee), and Clay and I did- it was pretty nice. But, no one was trying to sell you on purchasing a new pair of shoes, running skirt, tutu, or another marathon entry.
I’m not a huge “expo” fan- for me it’s all about what happens on the course. If I want shoes, I’ll go to TrySports Mt. Pleasant and get personalized help (and I’ll recommend you go there too)- and you’ll never catch me running in a tutu.
If you’re in SC and limited to races in SC (like me), this one’s worth considering for the $85 entry fee- which never went up. It was $85 when registration opened up until the Wednesday before the race, when registration closed.
The volunteers – Aside from those volunteers who just left that one aid station toward the end, the volunteers were great. No one could help that those volunteers left; any activity that relies on volunteers will always have a few lackluster volunteers- that’s just how it goes. All the volunteers who I interacted with were great and asked what we wanted to drink or eat and how we were feeling.
Many volunteers were local cross country runners from Darlington High School, who were enthusiastic and helpful. Those kids were super excited to see a big race in their town, and someday, those runners may run marathons, maybe even the one in their town!
Carolina Running Company – These guys stayed out there timing and operating the Darlington Marathon until the last person finished. They were out there all day the day before at packet pick up and tearing down the finish after most people left. Carolina Running Company spent almost 8 hours timing 4 races (5k, 10k, half, full)- and still got the race results online late Saturday night.
People thank staff, volunteers, and organizers- but rarely do they thank the timing company. Timing races is their job, but the race timing operation is basically two families who really care about promoting running in the community. For that, I’d like to thank Carolina Running Company for all they do in the Pee Dee.
The (lack of) potties – Every runner has nightmares about porta potties.
Whether your porta-potty running nightmare is a race starting while you’re in line for a potty, a long potty line during the race, or someone tipping over the potty while you’re in it, porta-potties elicit a gut-wrenching feeling in any runner.
The Darlington Marathon had 4 porta potties at the start, where runners waited up to 40 minutes for a bathroom. Of course everyone has to go before a race! The worst part of waiting for a potty isn’t that you have to wait, but that you have to stand in line on your feet before running a 26.2 mile marathon where you’ll be on your feet at least 3-4 hours.
The race start was delayed until people were out of the porta potty line, which was a great call. The organizer did announce next year’s race would have more potties. Needless to say- he got a huge applause after that announcement!
Lack of course entertainment– 26.2 miles is a long way to run, and we need distraction. For an $85 marathon, I didn’t expect bands, cheerleaders, or characters. Heck, it’s rural South Carolina- you’re bound to see quite a few “characters” on the roads without having to recruit or pay them.
I knew there would be signs on the race course. The organizers even posted pictures of the signs– definitely a great way to get people excited. Most of the signs were on the first 8 miles of the course.
At the beginning of the marathon, everyone was chatting with others around them to meet those they’ll run with, make conversation, and settle into a pace. We were giggling and laughing and had each other during those miles- I definitely made some new friends!
The toughest part of a marathon is the last 6.2 miles, when people hit “the wall”. For the last 14 miles of the course, the only signs were mile markers, minus the signs that were at the track leading into the tunnel (mile 25- as the last mile was a lap around the Darlington Raceway).
I really needed the laughs and humor from those first 8 miles during the final 8 miles. Unlike the first 8 miles, I had no one around me to chat or giggle with, so those signs would have been a welcome sight and laugh on a very difficult, scorching (with heat) course.
No food at the finish – Not only is a lack of food at the finish line of a race ugly, it’s also dangerous. After 4+ hours on my feet running 26.2 miles on a hot course, I needed nourishment. Darlington Marathon’s finish line had water, which I got. I felt really sick and bad until I got lunch that afternoon (after going home, showering, and hydrating).
I normally don’t like chocolate milk or most recovery drinks (typically, I fuel and recover with actual meals), but I think it would’ve helped me feel better after the run. There’s a 30 minute window after ANY workout to get some carbs and protein in, and with all of us having a 10-minute out of the raceway and back to our cars, then driving, the window pretty much escaped us all.
Once I got home (and on Facebook), I read that there was food at the end of the race- *homemade chicken noodle soup*. I thought that was an odd meal after a race where many participants got sunburn (the temperature at the finish was 75. The soup ran out after many half marathoners finished, but even if it was there, I couldn’t have eaten it anyway as it contains meat.
Hopefully next year, the finish line will not only have food for all racers (including those who run/walk the half marathon and the marathoners), but will also have non-meat options as well.
I’ll be back with some new posts soon! I won’t apologize for being a “bad blogger” because I hate when people do that- but I’ve been busy with life, and that’s a good thing.
Hope everyone’s doing well!