Last weekend, I ran the Battle at the Border Trail Run, an annual competition between the Grand Strand Running Club and Wilmington NC Road Runners. Each year, both clubs come together at a farm in Calabash, NC, for a 4.5 mile cross country style trail race. The race is held at Indigo Farms, and the course winds through both states!
For Grand Strand Running Club members, your $20 annual dues gets you admission into the Border Battle as well as a very nice GSRC technical singlet to wear during the run. Battle at the Border is only for club members and not open to the public, but it does not cost any additional money besides your yearly fee. You just have to join GSRC. With the race and other perks (race discounts, social nights, post-race tent at the MB Marathon), the $20 membership is a great deal. If several people in your family run, your household can join GSRC for $30.
I met a lot of Grand Strand Running Club members at the 2015 Historic Georgetown Bridge to Bridge Half Marathon and also hung out with many at the 2017 Myrtle Beach Marathon. I was injured at that race, so I was a “pit crew” to friends and some new friends. The running community is small and close-knit, so it’s fun to make friends in other cities.
Roscoe, the president of the Grand Strand Running Club and brother to my close friend and training partner Steve, invited me to run the Border Battle with GSRC, so I took him up on the offer. Clay had some things going on that weekend, and I was excited to run somewhere new. Charleston is home and I love it here, but sometimes a change of scenery and terrain is good for a runner’s legs and soul.
I drove up to Myrtle Beach the night before the race and stayed with one of the GSRC members, Chip, along with his wife Jeanne and son Taylor. They are originally from the Florence/Hartsville area where I lived for years, so we had a lot to catch up on and knew many of the same people. We didn’t do a whole lot of pre-race celebrating besides watching Big Brother and eating dinner from Little River House of Pizza (so good). I had a veggie sub and onion rings.
The next morning, we headed off to the trail run. It was only about 10 minutes from his house, and we got there early to socialize. I was a little TOO social and didn’t get into the potty line until 8 AM. As soon as I was done in the portajohn, it was time for a pre-race picture, so I never got to warm up. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t warm up for a race (it’s been YEARS)!
Since the Border Battle is a trail run and team competition, my goals looked very different than usual:
- Finish Healthy: This is always the #1 goal for a run or race. I had an 11 mile training run the next day and have a lot of half marathons this Fall. While I wanted to run my best for GSRC, I also want to be healthy for those.
- Don’t Fall: I don’t usually do trail runs and this one had a lot of roots, rocks, and even a few holes on the course.
- Pass Wilmington Runners/Don’t Get Passed: This was the point of the race, to score points for GSRC. The Wilmington runners wore orange shirts for the event so it was easy to know who was on our team (gray) vs. them.
Since the point of the race was for Grand Strand runners to finish before Wilmington runners, I hoped to have a progressive run/negative split. Since I’m usually the one getting passed late in races, I know it can psych you out, and I wanted to be the one passing and surging ahead. Starting slower also let me get a feel for the trail conditions. I had no pace or time goals, just passing.
Before starting, we did some team pictures and chants. It felt like a running sorority- everyone had on the same shirt, we took a big picture, and we chanted G-S-R-C.
I won’t do a mile by mile recap, but the course was 4.5 miles of some of the toughest trails I’ve run in years. I normally listen to my iPod during races, but after one song, I had to turn it off and completely focus on my footing and passing people. I passed loads of runners in the last two miles- maybe I was too conservative, but I really didn’t want to fall or get hurt. My mile splits were 9:33, 9:06, 9:00, 8:45, and 8:33, finishing in 40:30.
After a two mile cooldown, I had some watermelon and socialized while the scores were tallied. Unlike traditional races that offer awards to the overall and masters runners and age group awards, the Border Battle has two awards: the overall winning team and a participation award for the team with the most runners. There are no bibs and timing, and the race is scored with popsicle sticks.
Unfortunately, Grand Strand Running Club did not win the team competition, so we took “Snaily”, the runner-up trophy, for the year. We were counting on the faster men, and many of the guys in the front took a wrong turn somewhere, which cost us big time.
BUT… GSRC had 170 runners and won the participation award! This was the largest Border Battle ever, with runners from all over the Grand Strand (over 50 miles) coming together to run a challenging course in the heat. I’m really proud of everyone who showed up because the course and conditions are outside of most of our comfort zones. We had a great team spirit, and I loved being a part of a big team event.
Now that I’m “officially” a GSRC member, I’m eyeing a few races in Myrtle Beach over the next few months, so I can run new courses and reconnect with others. I hope to run Border Battle 2018 as well!