This review is for the 2017 Charleston Marathon. Please note that this event is under new management as of the January 2018 race.
The Charleston Marathon is one of the best races in our city, yet many residents know little about it. Charleston has been known for the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K for years, but people are slowly finding out about the Charleston Marathon races, attracting both locals and out-of-towners.
2015 was my third year participating in the Charleston Marathon, which consists of a marathon, half marathon, Shrimp and Grits 5K, and bike ride. In 2013, I ran the half marathon, then hung out with my friend Nadine who did the 5K as her first race. In 2014, I paced the 2:30 half marathon finishers, most of whom exceeded their goal.
After spending 2014 focusing on 5Ks and 10Ks, I set a half marathon PR in a long training run, so I shifted my focus on training for Charleston. In October, November, and December, I did 2 speed workouts every week and focused on increasing my long run and overall weekly mileage while staying healthy and uninjured.
In the end, my training paid off with a big PR.
This was my first official half marathon road race since the 2013 Charleston Half Marathon, and it’s hard to know how to plan for a distance you haven’t raced in 2 years. I set some goals, but my main one was to finish uninjured, smiling, and maybe set a PR in an actual race.
The Charleston Marathon gets better each year, and this year, we got some neat swag in the form of a long sleeved tech shirt designed by local artist Tate Nation and a fun drawstring bag. Another new addition was Facebook and text message tracking. My mom was thrilled to receive texts when I passed the 10K mark and finish line.
Thanks to the Charleston Marathon, my mom learned how to text.
Race morning brought beautiful weather. After last year’s polar vortex and headwind, I was happy to see temperatures in the mid-40s… short sleeves! I stayed warm before the race in the gym at Burke High School, near the starting line, where I met up with Jenny from Run Jenny Run (I’ve followed her training for this race). I love that the school is open for runners to stretch, mingle, and stay warm before walking to the starting line.
We started out running down Lockwood Ave, Broad Street, and the Battery, which is where I do speedwork, tempo runs, and the occasional long run. As always, the view was gorgeous and I loved running on familiar roads.
We ran down King Street, where we had lots of spectators, cheerleaders, bands, singing groups, and fun signs. My favorite was a little girl holding up a sign with a big red circle on it reading “Press for more horsepower”. All of the runners around me touched that sign (photo courtesy of Charleston Marathon’s Facebook page).
Unfortunately, little kids with cute signs don’t help much when you start out too fast. Ironically, I never start too fast in my long runs (I’m really cautious about this), but I went out almost 30 seconds under goal pace in the first two miles. It’s always by accident; I get caught up in the excitement.
When you bank time in a half marathon, you withdraw it with interest later in the race. Hey, it was my first half marathon in two years, and I know what not to do in the next race. Running is a learning experience for everyone.
The other minor hiccup I had was fueling. I didn’t eat anything on my 12-13 mile long runs- just my pop tart and coffee before. On my 16 miler, I used sport beans, so I brought those to the race. When fueling on a training run, I stopped, ate the sport beans, and carried on running. I didn’t want to stop in the race, and I couldn’t get the beans out of my pocket due to my gloves. I only ate one bean during the race.
The miles in North Charleston weren’t the most scenic, but they did have a fair amount of crowd support. The crowd support in North Charleston has increased each year. We also had a couple of bands and a nice view of the Cooper River from Riverfront Park.
Once you’re out of Riverfront Park, there’s one mile to go until the finish. I didn’t have much left, so I told myself it was only about 8 minutes and I could do anything for 8 minutes. Park Circle had tons of spectators and cheerleaders, including Peggy, who was ringing her cowbell. Peggy supports so many local runners through the TrySports Run Club and has helped many of us through our first or fastest half or full marathons. It was great to see Peggy- and the finish.
I’m glad half marathons don’t require a finish kick like 5Ks do, because I didn’t have one and I always get out-kicked! The 1:45 pacer passed me at the end, and I felt slightly disappointed.
I got my medal, then found my official time was 1:44:58. By 2 seconds, I was a 1:44 half marathoner!
I hung out with my friends after and enjoyed a mimosa, grits, and boiled peanuts. I met up with some friend from the Fitness World Run Club, my Florence/Pee Dee run club from before I moved to Charleston (they traveled here for the race). Since the weather was so beautiful, everyone hung out and had a great time. Several of my friends won awards in the 5K and half, so I saw their award ceremonies. We all danced to live music and celebrated.
After the race, I noticed my Garmin read 13.46. I didn’t look at it during the race, and maybe I should have- and slowed down the first two miles. At first, I thought I set my Garmin at the school as I was walking to the start. The race was long, but the actual course is not long. After all, it’s certified.
That evening, I learned the lead police car passed Ashley Avenue downtown and turned on Rutledge Avenue, making the race 2 blocks longer. This was bad news for anyone hoping to qualify for Boston, as a few minutes makes a difference when you must be 3-4 minutes under the qualifying time.
Unfortunately, a few runners were rude to the race directors, pacers, officials, and crew about the race length issue. I understand being upset, but taking it out on others makes you look bad. If a runner complains about driving 2372 miles to Charleston, supporting the local economy, and lets a long race completely ruin the trip, that’s not the race’s problem. It’s the runner’s problem- an attitude problem.
Those who ran the full and barely missed qualifying had a reason to be unhappy (I would have been too). For the rest of us, myself included, why not use the 13.1 time from your Garmin or Map My Run and count that? Life’s too short, and in the end, it’s only running.
I wasn’t upset by the long race since I met my goals regardless. On Sunday, the race officials responded saying they would measure the extra distance and adjust times based on the difference. I thought that was very classy and professional. The extra distance was measured on Wednesday, and the adjusted times were online Thursday.
I enjoyed the Charleston Marathon and will participate next year. I’m proud of meeting my goals and setting a new PR on my hometown course. It’s one of my favorite local races and I love that it brings so many runners to experience the streets and scenery from my usual running routes.
Chip time: 1:44:58
Garmin 13.1 Time: 1:42:23
Adjusted Time: 1:43:32