Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Myrtle Beach Marathon Review

(Photo source)
FYI ... Myrtle Beach looks nothing like this in February
Myrtle Beach Marathon
February 18, 2012
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
19th Marathon Completed
Overall Experience ... 4 out of 5

Spoiler Alert
  • Drove 39 hours round trip from Missouri to South Carolina for the race
  • Great volunteer organization, both pre and post-race
  • A ton of SWAG in the race packet, but ...
  • Very convenient and free parking about 100 yards from the starting line
  • 3rd flattest marathon I've ran with only 138 ft of elevation gain ... literally NO HILLS!!!
  • One minor downside - you only see the Atlantic Ocean briefly while running - most of the time it's blocked by adjacent hotels
  • Perfect weather of 40 degrees at the start, about 60 degrees at the finish
  • First marathon using POSE method ... not exactly thrilled with the results
  • 3rd slowest marathon I've ran at 3:59:23
  • Met a really cool new friend and blog follower - Bobby from Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Overall great experience ... highly recommend this race!

Finisher Medal and Race Packet
Finisher Medal for the Myrtle Beach Marathon

Give away bag including race bag, race booklet, water
crystals & fruit, arm warmer sleeves, race towel, and
a pinkish-purple race shirt

Packet Pick-Up
& The Pinkish-Purple Race Shirt
Packet pick-up was held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, a few blocks from where the race would start and finish.  It was very well organized, with many of the typical vendors you find at medium-sized marathons.  There was music playing in the background, and all of the vendor tables were spaced so it was not too crowded as you made your way around.

I try very hard to keep criticism to a minimum when writing race reviews on this blog (with the exception of the Rocket City Marathon of course).  It's very easy to view large, several thousand person races as faceless corporate money-makers.  But at every race, there is a person or small committee of people who plan and work very hard for a large part of the year to make sure everyone has a great experience at their event (with the exception of the Rocket City Marathon of course).  And overall, the Myrtle Beach Marathon was a wonderful experience.  But ... I would be less than honest as a "race reviewer" if I didn't mention the race shirt.

Allow me to introduce you to the single weirdest race shirt I've ever received.  Now I know many of you have experienced much worse - but this tops it for me.  It's friggin' PINKISH-PURPLE!!!!  I'm literally color blind and I can even tell this thing is hideous.  But then again, they DID incorporate the attractive white baseball-uniform type sleeves right ... huh????????????? 

The logo on the shirt is actually pretty cool.  And I would have loved to have seen it on a shirt not manufactured in 1983.  Plus, as a runner owning testicles, it would have been awesome to have logo printed on a male version of the shirt.  I'm not kidding about this, when I took this shirt out of  my race bag, I literally turned around to go back to the packet pick-up because I thought I had received a female shirt by mistake.  But then I saw about 30 other guys standing around with the same "What the???"  look on their face as they pulled the same purple glow-pop out of their bag. 

Do you mean to tell me that at some point no one on the committee thought to themselves, "Hmmm, I'll bet most heterosexual men aren't going to like this shirt."  No one thought that?  No one???   Was Ray Charles in charge of picking the color of the shirt?  News-flash ... Ray Charles can't see sh--!  Plus he's dead!  So bad move assigning him to this project!!!

Honestly, like most of you, I have enough race shirts to cloth a small army.  And a good or bad race shirt at Myrtle Beach didn't make or break the race for me.  But it's pinkish-purple.  Enough said.

Travel, Lodging, & Myrtle Beach
I hate flying.  I don't like the hassle more than anything.  But also, I love having my own car when I arrive in a new city.  So typically when I go to a race, I'll drive.  I've been on several 4 & 5 hour trips, a 9 hour commute, and even a 17 hour long-haul to Missoula, Montana last year.  But this one pushed the limits a little.  It was 19-1/2 hours from my front door to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ... and I drove every mile!  Crazy ... probably!  But I love taking off in a new direction that I've never been before.  And until last weekend, I had never driven through the Southeastern portion of the United States.  It was amazing.  I got to see all sorts of places I had never been.  I drove the whole State of Tennessee and got to see the Great Smokey Mountains during a really foggy period, which created a smoke-like effect in the trees.  I also buzzed through North Carolina, which was beautiful, before arriving in South Carolina.  It was a long trip, and I was more than ready to stop driving when I arrived back in Missouri - but overall, it was great!

(from left to right) South Carolina State Sign, Downtown Myrtle Beach on Ocean Blvd,
The Great Smokey Mountains East of Knoxville, TN on my way to the race, a dork at the Atlantic Ocean (you can almost see the water), and palm trees in North Myrtle Beach
This was only the second time I had been to Myrtle Beach, but the first time that I had access to transportation.  So I got to see a lot of the wonderful local Myrtle Beach area.  Downtown Myrtle Beach is mostly known for it's cheap hotels, endless putt-putt golf courses, restaurants, t-shirt shops, and adult entertainment bars. Not exactly awesome.  However, once you leave the spring-break haven and head over to the surrounding communities like North Myrtle Beach, you find an amazing area with dozens of actual golf courses and a beautiful country-side sitting next to the Atlantic Ocean.

Capriz Italian Feast ... AWESOME!!!
Overall, it seemed like a very easy city to navigate, which made it convenient getting back and forth from my hotel.  I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn next to the Coastal Grand Mall.  It's located on Interstate 17 which runs adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.  It's been winter both times I've visited South Carolina, so I've never experienced the Atlantic Ocean water when it wasn't freezing.  And like my last trip to the Atlantic, I kinda wussed out and didn't want to fill my shoes with sand, and I actually stayed off of the beach ... boooo me, I know!  But I had a great time driving around and checkin' out the sites.

For my pre-race dinner, I went to a cool restaurant at Broadway At The Beach called Capriz Italian Feast.  The name didn't disappoint.  It was kind of a "touristy" type of place ... so naturally I was all in!  They start you with a trip to a wonderful salad and pasta bar where, among countless other things, I enjoyed two of the largest asparagus spears I had ever eaten.  It made my urine stink like rotten eggs later that night, but they were delicious!

Sad face with an overly happy rabbit
After that, the incredibly friendly staff hands you a card that is green on one side, and red on the other.  When you turn it over to green on your table, you are bombarded with friendly Brazilian Gaucho gentlemen who offer you samples of everything from grilled chicken, savory pork, and tender beef to an endless supply of various pastas.  When you need a break or you're finished, you flip the card to red. 

Once I got inside and realized the type of restaurant it was, I figured that the food would be marginal at best.  But honestly, it was one of the BEST pre-race meal I've ever had.  The food was fantastic, and I can't say enough about the friendly staff.  They made several trips to the table and made sure you were well taken care of.  I figured with a marathon the next day, there would be quite a wait to be seated, but I actually got right in.  I would highly recommend Capriz Italian Feast to anyone who travels to Myrtle Beach.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The only down-side about walking around the Boardwalk At The Beach Complex was having to do it alone.  As a follower of my blog, you know that my family and I are all GIANT HAMS for the camera!  My wife and daughter are known for their hi jinx on camera, and my son and I are cut from exactly the same cloth.  And whenever I go to a fun place like this alone, it kinda bums me out.  But to be honest, Michael and I would probably kill each other during a 20 hour car ride, so it's probably for the best. 

The biggest downer came after I left the restaurant.  I saw this giant ceramic bunny just standing there smiling, waiting to be photographically abused by two idiots from Missouri.  He was practically begging for it!  But since I was by myself, I felt a little strange assaulting a giant hare.  I mean, I am grown man.  You got off lucky rabbit, but next time, oh yes ... next time!  

Race Day
The starting time was 6:30 AM for the marathon.  So I woke up at my normal 4:00 AM, stretched a little, ate a protein bar and banana, "read the paper", and played a couple of games of Words With Friends (I'm an addict).  After that I drove to the race and found a great parking spot about 100 yards from the starting line.  When the gun went off, it was about 40 degrees with almost no wind ... PERFECT!

Me, the starting line, and Long-leaf pines
The starting line was located in the Broadway At The Beach area, and finished at The Myrtle Beach Pelicans Minor League baseball park.  The first few miles of the race are spent running through the "not-so-beachy" areas of Myrtle Beach.  Like most marathons, there just wasn't 26 miles of interesting scenery along the way.  So much of the first portion of the race was spent running by warehouses, small shops, and homes.  But I still enjoyed it!  There were palm trees and tall long-leaf pines everywhere - we have neither in Missouri.

At about mile 7 & 8 you start to make a loop back toward the Atlantic Ocean - headed toward Ocean Boulevard, which is where I was really excited to run.  But one of the only other down-sides to this race is how little time you actually get to spend running next to, and viewing the Ocean - though it's in no way the race organizer's fault. Ocean Boulevard runs adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, however there are several of the small t-shirt shops, 24-hour pancake houses, and beach-front hotels between the boulevard and the water. These structures blocked the view of the sun coming up over the Atlantic for most of the way.  So in between each hotel, you'd get a quick glimpse of the sand, water, and rising sun ... but that was about it. It was pretty unique to run so close to the Ocean, but you never really felt like you were running that close to the beach.

Around mile 10, I was dealing with a blister issue on my right foot.   It was all I could think about.  But fortunately at about that point - I met Bobby from Charlotte.  He was a blog follower and happened to be running the marathon too.  He told me he had read that I was running Myrtle Beach and had kinda been on the look out for me.  Typically I kind of keep to myself during a race, but I was glad to have someone to talk to to keep my mind off of the painful blister the rest of the way.  When he asked me how the race was going, I think it was one of the first things I mentioned.  It was really bugging me.

Map of the Myrtle Beach Marathon course ... you don't actually
see the Atlantic Ocean that much
Since changing to the POSE method earlier this year, I had been struggling a little with my running.  The biggest issue was building back my endurance.  I knew going into Myrtle Beach that this race would be quite a bit slower than ususal.  Bobby told me that he wasn't really in top marathon shape either, so we both just slowed way down and ran the remaining 15-16 miles together.  It was great getting to know him.  We talked about almost every race we had ran and also discussed some upcoming races.  It turns out that he's doing the Little Rock Marathon in two weeks where Michael and I will be running the half - so we'll probably get together in Arkansas too!

At about mile 18, you make the final turn and head back South toward The Pelican's Stadium finish line.  And at that point, I was more than ready to be done.  One of the great things about the Myrtle Beach Marathon is super flat course.  There's only 138 ft of elevation gain over the whole 26.2.  Only Fargo and Disney were flatter in the races I've ran so far.  It's a super-fast track!  And on Saturday, the winner of the race set the course record.  It was a perfect day to run.  The average temperature was about 50-55 degrees with almost no wind.  Simply beautiful.  I just regret that I wasn't in top shape so I could find out what I could do on a great course like that.
Myrtle Beach Marathon Elevation - very flat with only 138ft of total incline, and the largest "hill" of 30ft at mile 16
Bobby and I talked until about mile 21 where we both got pretty tired, and quiet.  It was starting to heat up a little too, inching toward 60 degrees.  A lot of the later miles in the race had been spent in the sun, but fortunately at about mile 22 we ran along side Highway 17 and there was plenty of shrubbery along the shoulder to shade us. 

For some reason at about 23, I got pretty chatty again.  It was probably a little annoying to my new friend, but I like to joke around and try to encourage people as they pass.  I went through my list of stock jokes with volunteers and spectators ... "Have any girls passed me yet?", "I don't have any money on me, is this water free?", and at mile 22, "Yes ... only one more mile!!!"  But I quickly noticed that they just weren't "killing" like normal.  I told Bobby that I didn't think people got my stupid sense of humor.  He said, "Yeah, people in the South are pretty serious."  Guess I'll have to work on some new material for other Southern runs.

As we neared the Pelicans Stadium, we could here the familiar sound of festivities at the finish line.  During a lot of marathons, this is where I begin to sprint the home stretch - digging for a PR.  But at Myrtle Beach, I glanced at my watch and was just hoping to finish under 4 hours.  We barely made it ... 3:59:23!  It was the 3rd slowest marathon I had ever ran.  But honestly, I was just glad to be done, get my medal, and mark another state off of the map.

We gathered some water and Gatorade, which seemed to be a long way from the finish line, and then sat around and talked about upcoming races - trying to stretch a little.  The post-race area was not great, but definitely not bad either ... just pretty average.  But unfortunately our cars were near the starting line - which was about 1/2 mile from where we were.  We both hobbled to the parking lot and agreed to get together at Arkansas and then went on our way ... after all, I had a 19-1/2 hour drive back home to get started on.

All-in-all the Myrtle Beach Marathon was great.  It wasn't exactly what I had imagined in my mind though.  For some reason when I looked at the map online, I just figured you would be on a boardwalk type of structure running along the beach.  Frankly, it's a lot like most marathons ... but I had a great time and would highly recommend it!  I really enjoyed my trip to the South!
... be great today!


  1. I love that shirt. But not on you or any of the male species. I dare say it might even be a little over the top for even my taste. HAHAHA!

    Second, I can't believe you drove that far. I think I feel the circulation in my legs coming to a halt at the idea of driving that far but I'm not a big driver. That's why I have my husband. He drives Mrs. Daisy back and forth to her races.

    I've also never heard of an Italian Rest. that does the flip card red / green with meat. I thought only Brazilian ones did that but the plus side is that the food turned out great.

    Finally, I like those jokes. The one about the free water...CLASSIC.

    I'm a WWF addict too! First in Philly is my handle. I'm bad ass!

  2. That is one long drive.

    I agree with the shirt.

    The food sounds awesome.

  3. As always...i enjoy your stories more than anything. You always add so much more than just running to your adventures.

    Would it be wrong ofme to say I think we are all waiting for a pic of you in that beautifully bright purple race shirt???

  4. I can always expect that when I come here you'll have run at least another 6 marathons since the last time I visited with how lame I am about blogging. :) The POSE method huh? I'm still reading and my husband is now explaining it to to me. You crack me up with the shirt part...ha ha..smiling here.

    Thanks for the comment on my Boston Post. I post at such odd time and have been so horrible about commenting that I'm not expecting a ton of traffic over there until I get my blogging act together. But I've been just a tad busy with fitting in mileage. Good to visit your blog today Jim.

  5. Love this review! Trying to not laugh too loudly at my desk reading about the shirt...that's hilarious. :)
    I personally LOVE road trips...especially when I don't have to rush. It's my favorite way to travel. I've never been to the Southeastern part of the U.S., though. Sounds amazing!

  6. The medal is freaking sweet! And I think it is awesome you made a new friend and had someone to run with. My favorite marathon is the one I ran with my friend Julia. You have plenty of marathons ahead to PR at.

  7. I'm a girl and I hate that shirt. I can't stand pink.

  8. Love the medal! That is hysterical about going back to get a male shirt! Oops! It stinks to be so close to the ocean and not able to see it. Poor poor planning. But maybe there is no way to see it. Having not been to Myrtle Beach I don't know. I guess I will complain less about seeing not as much of the AO as the previous year in my half because we still saw quite a bit. The map of the course is deceiving as it looks like you will be hugging it a lot. I can't imagine driving that far. Good for you.

  9. ok that shirt is NOT for guys! they should have had that color for women and blue for guys... last 2 races I did they had that..2 different shirts..

    the medal is nice but also on the girly side....maybe they only had gals on the race committee!!!

    I would have driven too...I hate flying also.

  10. Personally, I like that hideous purplish pink colour. But I'm not colour-blind and I'm not a guy.

    It's worth persisting with the new technique even though it wasn't great for you this time. It's early days yet and it takes a long while for big changes like that to become automatic and fluid.

  11. What - you were in Myrtle Beach this weekend and you left me here in Missouri?

  12. Wow... I'm a fan of pink and I even think the shirt is hideous! :) But them medal is cool. haha

  13. I think that's a butt-ugly shirt, even for a chick! But the medal is pretty fun! Sorry about your blister that sucks. And you'll get the endurance built up again....that forefoot striking takes some time but it does happen.

  14. just wondering if you are doing the Country Music Marathon in Nashville/ in April?

  15. Nice review. I was there too and totally agree about the shirt. I tried to trade mine to a woman running the half (since the half shirts were orange), but the women's shirts had a v neck. I'd like to be able to wear the shirt from my pr marathon, but this one won't leave the house!


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