This review is for the 2016 Charleston Marathon. Please note that this event is under new management as of the January 2018 race.
This was my 4th year running the Charleston Marathon (Half), one of my favorite local races. Although this is a local event, it’s quickly becoming a weekend destination race. The Charleston Marathon is held on MLK Jr. weekend each year, and since many people have Monday off, they stay in town for a few days.
You cannot peak or expect to PR at every race, so each month, I pick one race to try hard. For January, Charleston Marathon was that race.
I had some free time last Monday night, so I sat down and wrote out a race plan. You don’t have to be super fast to write a race plan and list your goals- it’s a good step for all runners. And yes, having fun and taking a good race picture are perfectly acceptable goals!
No training plan or race day ever goes perfectly and stress-free. This was no exception. The day before the race, I drove my new-to-me car to the packet pick up and expo. The rain was terrible, and it was my first time driving this car in rain. Also, roads near the school where packet pick up was flooded. This was scary, but my car is part submarine and survived.
I got all my stress out on Friday, so Saturday’s race had to go well!
I arrived at the race about an hour early on Saturday, and parking was easy. The flooding from the day before had receeded except for a few mud puddles (we have tidal flooding and drainage issues here since we’re on the coast). I hung out with Emily and some more friends in the warm gym before the race.
Pre-race, I met fellow blogger Paul at Running Wild who was pacing the 4:00 marathon. We didn’t get a picture, but it was fun meeting him since I’ve read his blog for about a year now. He runs a lot of NC marathons, as well as a few destination races. We talked a bit, then I dropped my bag at bag check and walked toward the start. It was so warm, I ditched my gloves in my car on the way to the start.
I found the 3:15 full pacer and talked to him for a bit. He said he was going to start at around a 7:50 pace for the first two miles, then ease into a 7:21. Charleston doesn’t have corrals, so I decided to start with the 3:15 full marathoners and a few half marathoners around us who said they were gunning for under 1:40. One guy said he was shooting for “96” and I had to do the math that he meant 1:36 half.
After a few words from our new mayor and the national anthem, we started right on time. I dodged a few puddles of standing water at the start and ran around people, but I ran very close to the 3:15 marathon pacer. I hit the first mile in 7:41 and felt very comfortable. Too comfortable.
“No races are won in the first mile, but plenty are lost there.” – Andy “Tall Terror” Tedesco
Mile 2 felt pretty good too. I whizzed through the Fleet Feet Mt. Pleasant aid station and around downtown. I was pumped- this is my usual Sunday long run route. It was just like my Sunday long run with OnShore Racing, except I was joined by people from 47 different states and a few other countries.
I was slightly (or so I thought) ahead of the 3:15 full pacer, but I figured I was getting closer to my 7:30 goal pace. Then my watch vibrated, and I saw it… 7:08. I muttered several choice words usually reserved for the finish line of 5Ks.
Time to regroup with the plan. I couldn’t go back and run Mile 2 slower, but I had 11 miles to go. I immediately backed down and knew that I’d pay for this later on. I let a few people pass me and settled in to run my own race and not get too excited. We turned onto King Street at Mile 3. I knew spectators and cheers were coming, so I focused on staying calm, patient, and running comfortably. I saw Tom and Lesli cheering, and I yelled back “1:39 or bust!”. Tom yelled “You got it” and I just focused. Focus, focus, focus.
The 3:15 full pacer ran by, and I focused on keeping him in my site. I told myself it was okay because a 3:15 full pace is faster than a 1:39 half. I focused on keeping his blue hat and pace sign in my sight as long as I could.
At the 10K split, I just wanted to go back to Mile 2.
When you “bank time” by starting too fast, you pay it back later… with interest.
After the 10K split, much of the crowd support was gone. I couldn’t see the 3:15 pacer anymore, but this was okay. The headwind picked up. The Charleston Marathon Half is point to point, so if there’s a headwind, it’s a constant headwind. Headwinds aren’t fun for any runner, but it especially sucks when you’re a small female shy of 100 pounds.
I tucked behind a guy running for Booz Allen Hamilton’s corporate team to “draft”. Apparently some companies pay for their employees to run marathons and wear company shirts. The guy who won the marathon runs and works for GE (General Electric), and when he broke the tape, the finish line tape covered his GE logo in the picture. Bet his company’s pissed.
For miles 7-10, I tried to zone out into “dumb racehorse mode” which is how I run best. I saw Carolyn and Natalie at The Foot Store aid station, and Carolyn yelled and told me I was looking strong. I didn’t feel strong, but it was a nice boost seeing her.
This is your city. This is your race. You are #CharlestonStrong.
At mile 10, I saw my friend Bronwen who I run with on Wednesday nights at track. It was a happy site because we met at last year’s Charleston Half Marathon when we ran together for a bit and a mutual friend introduced us. I was glad to run by someone I knew and because I know Bronwen runs a sub-1:40 half marathon and has BQed.
According to my plan, Mile 10 was time for my rabbit hunt- passing people who went out too fast. Needless to say, I didn’t have much energy for the hunt, but I did pass a few, including Booz Allen singlet.
One rabbit I didn’t intend to catch was Andrew, the 1:30 pacer who had a rough day and was walking. We talked later, and apparently he had a stomach bug. Andrew runs a new business, Sunrise Running Company, but managed TrySports Mt Pleasant until the store closed (I was a member of TrySports’ Ambassador Team so I know Andrew well).
Almost as soon as I passed Andrew, he started running again. Runners have an unspoken language and connection, and I knew Andrew would help me snag that 1:39. We talked at the the expo the day before, and he knew I was shooting for 1:39. Andrew is an ultra runner and does not give up, and even if he could not lead his 1:30 half marathoners to the finish, he would be on the course to help whoever he could. I knew Andrew was there to pace me to that 1:39, so I tucked behind him and drafted.
With about half a mile to go, Andrew told me I had it, and I pressed on to the finish.
“Not everyone can win, but everyone can run their best race.” – Peyton Moore (2003-2013)
I turned onto Montague Avenue, knowing the finish was about 1/4 mile ahead. Lots of my friends, including the MooreOnRunners were out there cheering. I heard them cheer for The Tiny Terror and saw them snap pictures, and I felt the love.
I ran through the finish, trying not to look at the clock, but it was hard. I saw the clock strike 1:40 but tried to focus more on running strong rather than thinking about the clock or result. I heard the announcer yell “Amy Lauren Scott, from Charleston SC” and the cheers that followed. This was my city. This was my race.
I grabbed my medal and hugged my track friends Lisa and Melissa, who both ran the 5K. They comforted me as I told them I saw the clock hit 1:40 and missed my A Goal by a few seconds.
I found Emily and we grabbed our gear at the bag check. She had a rough day, as did many of the top runners. The wind slowed a lot of people down. We headed to the mimosa tent, and I checked the results. 1:39:59
One second. You gotta lean at the finish.
I stuck around and took pictures with some friends, including some friends who travelled down from Florence for the race. I used to live in Florence and my company is headquartered there, so I still visit, see, and run with them occasionally. I also hung out with the track crew, OnShore people, and my fellow Yelp Elite Vy.
The Charleston Marathon after party is the best. We all enjoyed the music and festivities. I had two bowls of shrimp and grits and set another personal record for mimosa consumption (4). When you set a PR, people give you extra drink tickets! Vy gave me a ride back to the car later, where I went home to relax and get over my “rangover”- post-race running hangover.
The Charleston Marathon (Full, Half, 5K, Bike Ride) gets bigger and better each year. If you’re a local and haven’t run it, I encourage you to put it on your calendar for next year. The 5K is the best deal in town because you get all the perks as well as a finisher’s medal.
This year’s improvements were abundant, including a very nice backpack at packet pick up, a blue tech shirt instead of white, and multiple beer/mimosa/shrimp and grits tents at the finish- making lines shorter. As far as I know, the only hiccup this year was that “finisher” was misspelled on some of the medal ribbons, and the organizers are switching those out for runners who let them know.
The Charleston Marathon’s a great race, and I plan to come back for Year 5 in 2017.
Splits/Pacing: My Garmin logged 13.22 miles with an average pace of 7:34.
Splits: 7:41, 7:08, 7:25, 7:35, 7:31, 7:36, 7:40, 7:36, 7:42, 7:39, 7:35, 7:39, 7:42, 7:12 (last .22)
Race Name: Charleston Marathon (Half Marathon)
Location: Charleston/North Charleston, SC
Date and Time: January 16, 2016, 8 AM
Swag: Gender-specific tech shirt, backpack, offers/samples, finisher’s medals for all races
Post-race food: Shrimp & Grits, beer, mimosas, apples, bananas, muffins, chocolate milk, beet juice, boiled peanuts, roasted peanuts
Weather: 52 degrees, 94% humidity, 6 mph wind at start.