A few weeks ago, I ran the Kiawah Island Half Marathon. The Kiawah Island Marathon is a popular and large local race, and it’s been on my bucket list for some time. This year was my first time running the Kiawah Island Marathon but certainly won’t be my last- especially since I already signed up for 2018.
Just over a year ago, when I was fighting a knee injury, I took a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream, entered my credit card information, and registered for the Kiawah Island Half Marathon for only $40. I’d never registered for a race a year in advance, but my plan was to stay healthy for 2017 and close out the year with a strong half marathon.
We know what happens to the best laid plans. I’ve spent the last few weeks struggling with illnesses, injuries, and personal life drama, and my Kiawah goal changed from competing to completing. To top it off, I woke up to pouring rain on race morning. Knowing I was far from 100%, I didn’t want to run 13.1 miles in the rain- especially since it would take me longer than normal. Still, I was grateful that I could at least COMPLETE 13.1 miles, as many of my friends and training partners who signed up the year before were injured and couldn’t run.
I got dressed and drove to Kiawah Island. On the way, I decided if it was raining at 8 AM, I would stay inside the warm conference building until the post-race beer tent and refreshments opened, then cheer for my friends who were running. A lot of my friends who’d registered and couldn’t run had already opted to come to the race just to cheer, so I’d have company.
When I arrived, I pulled into a grassy, muddy field to park, where shuttle buses awaited to take us to the conference center where the race would start. The shuttles were nice, warm chartered buses- the kind with cloth seats and bathrooms. The field was super muddy, but thankfully I had a pair of old shoes in my car that I threw on to walk to the shuttle and carried my running shoes. Knowing it wouldn’t be a fast day, I wore long sleeves and trainers- no racing flats.
When changing shoes and repacking, I forgot my breakfast granola bar in the car- and didn’t realize it until I was on the bus. Oh well, it was only 13.1 miles, I wasn’t really racing, and I’d have plenty of food at the end. Thankfully my festive friend Charlotte shared part of a Clif bar with me so I had something in my tummy. I sat with Virginia, Jason, Charlotte, and Todd on the bus ride over, but it was still dark, cold, and rainy. Walking from the shuttle stop to the conference center, I felt like I was in some kind of marathon horror movie.
Even though it was super cold outside, the conference center was warm and had plenty of room for us to wait and stretch, eat, hydrate, etc. It also has indoor bathrooms. At 7:30, the rain cleared up, and about ten minutes before the start, I walked out to begin the race.
I received a bib for the “High Performance Corral”, which means the high performance standards are painfully low. When will races learn that I’m a hobbyjogger and quit giving me “competitive” bibs? I saw the corral but didn’t bother walking up there- I’m on #TeamJanky and did not deserve to be near the front for what would be a glorified long run.
I started in the middle of the pack and we were off. I spent much of the first few miles chatting with friends and encouraging them when I saw them. Theresa was running the marathon and trying to PR and maybe BQ, so it was fun running with her some in the first mile. I always saw runners ahead of me and behind me, and it was neat running with so many people on the course- this is a big event for a local race and even my faster friends said they weren’t in the dreaded no man’s land.
I passed quite a few people I knew and always said hi, as well as waving and thanking spectators and volunteers. Lots of Kiawah residents and runners’ families and friends were on the course, and we had aid stations every other mile. One aid station had volunteers who were all wearing NFL jerseys and one had volunteers dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!
In Mile 9, I experienced one slightly difficult part of the course- a muddy section of dirt road. Considering I was already injured and a hobbyjogger, I got the walksies and just kind of tiptoed around it. I wasn’t going to break any records and didn’t want to break any bones either. Right after this, we ran on a boardwalk near the beach and an announcer cheered for us by name- it was a fun touch!
In the later miles, I started to speed up. I wanted to be done, plus I was at the point in the race where everyone around me was dropping the hammer to meet goals. I just wanted a medal for my Christmas tree. We reached Mile 13 and I had lots of ladies around me. I saw more and more spectators and heard Howie, my friend who coached me in a training program years ago, calling out finisher’s names. I’m always thankful for Howie’s encouragement and was glad to hear a familiar voice.
I ran through the finisher’s chute and heard Howie call my name, followed by “The Tiny Terror”. I crossed the finish in 1:46:57. It wasn’t the Kiawah Island Half Marathon time I hoped I’d run, but any day you’re able to run 13.1 miles with friends is a good day.
The After Party
I got my beautiful medal, then hung out with Melissa and Becky. I also got stretched out at the Stretch Science table- I was thankful for the girl ahead of me who left and told me to pretend to be her on the sign-up list.
Next, I headed to the food tent. Kiawah brings out a full spread of food! This is great if you race the half or full, but not-so-great if you start and finish the race two stomach flus from racing weight, as I did. I still pigged out and enjoyed myself. The soup and cornbread were so good, and I loved the hot chocolate. Since the temperatures never got out of the 40s that day, the hot chocolate was very popular.
I stuck around for the half awards since a few friends (including Melissa) placed, then we headed to the finish line to wait and cheer for Theresa and some other friends running the full. Theresa finished in 3:40:01 (yes, seriously) and set a BIG PR. The race had a PR bell, and I hope I can ring it next year.
Soon, Becki, Melissa, Theresa, and I grabbed more hot chocolate then walked to the shuttles to get in our cars and head home. I cranked up the heat in the car but never warmed up all day, but the race was so worth it.
I always heard locals brag on the Kiawah Island Marathon, and now I realize why. The race has been around for 40 years and gets everything right. It’s the perfect place to run your first or fastest half or full marathon. Best of all, it’s always a few weeks before Christmas, so you have time to recover and celebrate the holidays before the new year.
I honestly have nothing negative to say about the race. The rain held off and the weather was great for a marathon. I did have to spend $6 at the car wash that afternoon since we parked in a muddy field, but considering I only paid $40 for the race, it was still a great deal.
I would highly recommend this race and plan to run it in the future. You should too!
My Garmin logged 13.24 miles for this course. It has a lot of turns, which probably accounted for the longer distance.
8:34, 8:07, 8:07, 8:08, 8:01, 7:54, 8:01, 8:07, 8:14, 7:56, 8:04, 8:04, 8:56, 7:24 (Last .24)
Race Name: Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon
Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Date and Time: December 9, 2017, 8 AM
Course: Road, a few wooden bridges, and lots of turns. Course could be windy, but lots of homes and structures along the way to block the wind, as well as a large field for drafting. Flat and fast, USATF certified. Marathon is a very popular Boston Qualifier.
Swag: Long sleeved tech shirt with a hood, finisher’s medal.
Post-race Food: Coucous, pasta, soup, cornbread, vegetables, brownies, cookies, bananas, oranges. Coffee and hot chocolate. Post-race beer (unlimited).
Weather: 39 degrees, 100% humidity, 10 mph NW wind. Damp and chilly, but much better than a heatwave or rain!