For the third year in a row, I ran the May Day Marathon, a “run at your own risk” half and full marathon that celebrates spring with running, parties, and finisher’s medals.
The May Day Marathon is not for everyone. If you prefer big crowds, waiting in corrals, large expos, having your race splits texted to your friends, and overpriced entry fees, you won’t find that at the May Day Marathon. Also, if you want to qualify for Boston, you’ll need to run a sanctioned race because there’s no chip timing or certified courses.
If you want to run a half or full marathon where
- You are treated like a runner and not a number
- The volunteers will learn your name and offer you beer and cupcakes at the aid stations
- You won’t spend hundreds of dollars (late registration was only $50)
- You can experience the best scenery Charleston has to offer
… The May Day Marathon might be for you.
Brought to the Charleston area by OnShore Racing, the May Day Marathon occurs every year on May 1. If May 1 falls on a weekday, which it has for the past 3 years, the run is held on May 1. Taking a vacation day to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles is for truly dedicated runners- and runners with flexible work schedules and enough vacation time. I’m kind of a workaholic and don’t take many days off, but I requested the vacation in January so I wouldn’t miss May Day (If you’re curious, you can read my 2013 and 2014 recaps).
With a start time of 9 AM for the half, I got to sleep in a little before driving to Folly to pick up some friends for a carpool, then heading to the start. The May Day courses are point-to-point, with the full beginning at the Isle of Palms (at 7 AM) and the half beginning in Waterfront Park (Downtown Charleston). Both races end at Folly River Park.
We got to the start 20-25 minutes early and took some pictures and mingled, cheering for a few of the faster full marathoners who ran by.
We started on time and began running down the Battery and Lockwood Blvd. downtown for the first few miles. Runners get a great view of the Charleston Harbor, the Ashley River, and the James Island Connector before hitting the Ashley River Bridge, the Mile 3/16 aid station, and cupcakes. I didn’t have a cupcake at Mile 3- fortunately the finish line had cupcakes too (Even better for some runners, Mile 11/24’s aid station had both water and beer).
Running over the Ashley River Bridge was the toughest portion due to high winds on the bridge and the small pedestrian run/walkway. This bridge and the Wappoo drawbridge are both older and a little scary for running. They’re safe for running, but you have to slow down and pay attention to traffic, stopping for cars and lights when you need to. No use in risking your life during a run.
We had four aid stations in the half, as well as mile markers to tell us how much further we had to go to the finish. Since it wasn’t a closed course event, it was funny seeing some drivers’ and car passengers’ reactions to seeing runners on the road wearing race numbers. Drivers in general can be crazy, so it’s up to us as runners to watch out for ourselves even if pedestrians always have the right of way. I don’t think we had any near-misses with cars, though.
My goal was to run the May Day Half Marathon as a long run and gradually pick up the pace- and I did. I had a great progressive long run, starting out at a 8:47 pace and finishing with a 7:46 pace in Mile 13 (7:46 was my average pace at the Save the Light Half Marathon in February). I finished in 1:49:50- kicking it when I saw the clock inching toward 1:50. It was my fastest May Day Half Marathon.
The finish line party was fun- we had a taco bar, live music, maypole, corn hole boards, several types of craft beer, and lots of desserts. The desserts were the best- cookies, cupcakes, and even a birthday cake for one of the marathoners. I met a lot of runners from other states who visited for the race, including some first-time half and full marathoners, and hung out with old friends too.
The volunteers and race directors did a great job with the event and offered a lot for the low entry fee. We got cool fluorescent yellow t-shirts and there was even a fun shuttle to take runners back to the start.
At the end, we all danced around the May Pole (it was fun seeing it running over the last bridge to Folly!) and had a great time.
For me, the May Day Marathon officially kicks off summer in Charleston. I wouldn’t miss it for the world and have already registered for next year (it helps that the 2016 May Day Marathon is on a Sunday). Registration is only $30, and if you’re not sure which race you want to run, sign up anyway because you can change it later if you need to.
All professional photography in this post is courtesy of Brian Fancher Photography. Brian is a local runner and triathlete, as well as a fellow ambassador for TrySports Mount Pleasant. If you’re in the South Carolina Lowcountry, please consider Brian Fancher Photography for your sports, wedding, portrait, or commercial photography needs.