Darlington Marathon: The good, the bad, and the ugly

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.

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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.

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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 Good

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Bad

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Ugly

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.

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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!

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20 Responses to Darlington Marathon: The good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. Reblogged this on DoomBuggy Runner and commented:

    Here is a report from my friend Amy in the Darlington, SC Marathon.

  2. Erin says:

    No food after a marathon? That’s crazy.
    Also, props to you for doing so well in such a no frills race in the heat… I feel like all that got me through Philly last year was the grandioseness of it all (if I pay $135 to race, it better be good!) as well as the almost-freezing temperatures that made it impossible to feel the pain in your muscles.
    I’ve enjoyed reading about your training on dailymile 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly- yeah, the course was very no frills for the last half of it. Honestly, the first part with all the signs was cool, I just wish they’d been in the last part of the race when I really needed them! Especially after my ipod died (country road course and not many people, you definitely want your ipod, you know?)

      Your Philly marathon sounded awesome, I remember reading about it. I saw where you got your long one in on DM too, I will be back posting my training on there pretty soon, just haven’t really run much since the marathon.

  3. spectacuLAUR says:

    I can’t believe they had chicken soup after your race. The last thing I would want after running 26.2 miles would be a bowl of something hot. Honestly, did you think of e-mailing the company the link to this post? It might help them with next year’s marathon since you’re blatantly honest in a lot of areas around the race! They would probably appreciate the feedback.

    It sucks the last few miles didn’t have anything but mile markers, either. I know for my half marathon the cheering fans helped me push through the hill at the end. There’s nothing better than having entertainment, but I guess since it was only $85 (as you said) you get what you pay for. It’s just ashame your race was in such horrible conditions! I feel terrible you don’t want to run another one anytime soon. lol

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I did voice my concerns and suggested a a post-race survey be sent out to all runners. That’s why some races are so successful- they listen to feedback and strives to get better each year.

      Supposedly the organizers are in contact with some runners to get feedback, mostly the “marathon maniacs”. So, I guess those opinions are the ones that matter more than a first-timer (and last timer) like me.

      As far as cheering and motivation on a race goes, it depends on the race. My trail half marathon didn’t have those things, but it didn’t need them because it was a trail and that would have been out of place. But, any race with lots of road and first timers definitely needs signs!

  4. allieksmith says:

    Woah… no food after a marathon?! Well.. only chicken noodle soup?! That’s crazy. You’re right, it’s just kinda dangerous really. Especially in the heat.

    I still think your time is amazing–heat or not. I also don’t blame you for wanting to run SHORTER races now! woo!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, definitely dangerous :(. The chicken noodle soup was just a little weird, but at least the faster half marathoners got something, you know?

      I’m looking forward to shorter races and thinking about doing a 5K this weekend! Just not sure which one yet!

  5. Steph says:

    It sounds like your experience was a lot like my first marathon. That’s the one thing about marathons…the local races are cheaper, but you kind of get what you pay for. It works for shorter races, but a marathon is a long way =)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah. I think the 5K and 10K turned out really well.

      Honestly, the heat was a big factor for me time wise. I’m sure that in a cool month like November, I could’ve done much better even with no signs. It was grueling starting at about 9:00 that morning…

  6. Jessica R says:

    Nice job finishing! I suppose that is a risk running a first time race. I have noticed the difference between races that are new and those that have been around for a while. I ran an 8k a few weeks ago that was in its 36th year or something like that. That thing was so well done it was crazy.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You know, it really depends. I’ve run some that are newer but were pretty good just because they were organized by runners. I think having a lot of runners on the race committee, listening to runners, sending out post-race surveys and actually using the results- those things help a race.

      A few years ago, the Cooper River Bridge run was over an hour late starting and had tons of issues, and it’s a longtime run. But the next year, corrals and registration limits were in place to prevent those things from happening again, and the organizers also apologized.

      One thing about inaugurals… usually odds are pretty good for awards.

  7. LilMysNinja says:

    I can’t believe they didn’t have enough food for the marathoners. And even still that they had chicken soup! That’s confusing to me. I hate that you had that experience on your first marathon.

    You make some great points in your review. Thanks for reminding me that there are more than just the volunteers and the race committee. I forget that the timing company works just as hard.

    Hopefully they’ll greatly improve for next year. Maybe even think about starting early. South Carolina’s heat is no joke and to not have the support needed for both hydration/fueling and morally is not acceptable.

    You never have to apologize for taking the time you need to rest from blogging! You know that if anyone knows life happens, it’s me. 😉

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The race started at 7 AM… I could have dealt with a 6 AM start time, though :). Would’ve been fine for me. As far as the race date goes, the venue is already set for the same time next year- last weekend in September. VERY EARLY for a marathon in the South. I know they have to work around the raceway’s schedule with that, but still.

      The timing company, Carolina Running Company, works super hard. Yes, they do get paid, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a thank you. Every other paid employee of any business believes that the business should thank them, and customers thank paid employees at stores, restaurants, businesses all the time. As a local runner, I am technically a “customer” of Carolina Running Company (as are the race directors and organizers whose races they time).

      The heat here is crazy! It feels like a sauna outside today. Is it really October or is it July again? I dunno!

  8. No food at the end of any race longer then a 5k is pretty ridiculous. I actually can’t believe that and hope they have some next year. I know you were not into the time of year it was and maybe when you do sign up for another, you’ll be able to find a better temperature marathon. 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, I don’t see myself ever repeating a marathon if I do another one. It’s been unseasonably hot here in SC the past couple of weeks too. It was 86 degrees yesterday in some places around Charleston. The temperature at the start was fine, just that it can get really hot really fast down here.

      Today, it feels like a sauna outside. Feels more like June than October…

  9. Nerri says:

    congrats on getting that coveted 26.2! I can’t believe it was just this summer that we were talking (over froyo) about possibly running a marathon and now it’s been conquered! you are a beast – I think I would have died running in those temps!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly! I still haven’t gotten my 26.2 sticker yet (TrySports had to order it for me, they only had pink or black ones and I wanted white, so I’ll get it on Thursday).

      I’m pretty used to heat from training, but a hot 6-7 mile training run is one thing, and heat at mile 20 of a marathon is another. It was very brutal.

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