On Saturday, I ran the Save the Light Half Marathon at Folly Beach. Save the Light is a small, low-key half marathon and 5K race to support the preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Although the race is at Folly Beach, it is on a USATF certified road course and the half marathon has a great view of the lighthouse. No beach running is involved, but the view is gorgeous.
I hesitated to sign up for another half so soon, but I’m easily persuaded when my friends sign up for a race. A bunch of the Moore On Running runners were running, and so was my friend David who blogs at DoomBuggyRunner. Other friends were running the Hilton Head Island Marathon and the Delirium 24-Hour Endurance Race. I knew if I didn’t race, I’d have to look at Facebook posts about running and feel like I was missing out. On the last day of January, before the price increase, I paid the $45 and registered.
The race entry fee of $45 was a great deal. In running and life, you get what you pay for, so if a half marathon is only $45, do not expect Disney treatment. Our race “swag” included a long-sleeved cotton shirt, a poster print of the lighthouse, a finisher’s medal, and some light refreshments. Since it’s only 25 minutes from my home, I just picked up my packet the day of the race at The Tides Hotel.
The hotel also offered special rates and late check out for runners from out of town, which made it a great excuse for runners to spend a weekend at Folly Beach. The race began and ended by the hotel, and it was open for runners to hang out and stay warm before and after the race. A bunch of us are in a February plank challenge, so we hung out in the lobby and planked before the race.
Pre-race plank in my pajamas, check! Never mind that I’m looking up at the camera…
The race started promptly at 8:30 and it was a beautiful day. Temperatures were in the 40s with no wind to speak off. With little fanfare at the start, I didn’t get super excited and start too fast. My strategy was to pace myself, even if it wasn’t a PR. My plan was to run the first few miles just below my average pace for the Charleston Half and see how long I could hang. When you bank time in a half marathon, you pay it back with interest in the last few miles.
All the mile markers were right, and I hit the first mile in 7:40, still a few seconds faster than I wanted, but a lot better than the Charleston Half Marathon where I ran a blazing 7:18 pace the first two miles. My mile 2 split was 7:57 and was my slowest mile. When I saw that, I knew I needed to pick it up just a little because I would have to make up those seconds later in the race to stay on track. Still, I would rather be a little slower in the second mile than too fast.
The first 3 miles of the half marathon are the same course as the 5K, except the 5Kers turned to finish when we kept running. I paced just behind Joyce from Team Utopia South in Columbia and with another guy who was running about my pace. I passed Joyce in mile 4 but cheered her on because I knew she was speedy from seeing her in my friend Alex’s Tour De Blue Shoes blog.
The middle miles of the course were an out-and-back; you ran to the lighthouse and back. I saw some friends ahead of me and gave the ladies hints as to what order they were on the course. I also saw David and friends, as well as the Moore On Runners, and we all cheered for each other by name. That’s the bonus of running with friends and an out-and-back course.
The only complaint I have about this race is that the course is open to cars. The roads are mostly residential, so it’s hard to close them down on a Saturday morning, and the race has grown a lot in the past few years. The volunteers and police did a good job of stopping/blocking traffic, even having a fire truck block one intersection, but if the race continues to grow, I hope the organizers consider closing the course to traffic.
My race started at Mile 8. I dropped the guy I was running by and passed several ladies and a few guys. Only two guys passed me in the entire second half of the race, and no ladies passed me. At each mile marker, I glanced at my Garmin- I let that mile split motivate me and ate a jelly bean each mile starting at mile 7. I did great not overthinking this race and staying focused.
Approaching the finish, I saw 1:41 on the clock and knew I would PR. I focused on making sure my time was 1:41 instead of 1:42- since beating 1:42 was my “A” goal for the Charleston Half. I would meet my A goal today, three weeks later. I finished in 1:41:50.
After the finish, I got some Gatorade, a cookie, and my finisher’s medal. For some reason, no one was giving the medals out at the finish line, but an older lady walked around with them in a bag and asked the runners, “Would you like a medal?”. Of course we all wanted our medals- we ran a half marathon!
I took some pictures with the OnShore Racing Sunday run club crew as well as Joyce and Darrell from Team Utopia South. They have a big training group in Columbia and do workouts together. Personally, I can’t imagine training all alone, but it’s proof that having training partners, coaches, and people to help you can really pay off.
I really liked this race and would do run it again. The race was no-frills and old school, but it’s a good cause and a cheap race within driving distance of home. It’s also a great excuse to hang out at Folly Beach when it’s not tourist season (a bunch of us headed to Taco Boy after the race for food, recovery beverages, and hanging out).
I’m glad I decided to sign up and thankful for everyone who encouraged me to run the half marathon- the hard work is paying off.