I ran the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon this past weekend on October 18th. My friend and I were originally supposed to run a half marathon a year and a half ago (the Flying Pirate Half Marathon), but she rudely went and broke her foot on me.
I ended up running the half anyway, but it was still on our list to run one together (it wasn’t quite the same with my less than enthused husband that I forced to take her place). On a girl’s weekend to Savannah earlier this year, we decided the time was right and started searching out new halfs (halves?) to tackle.
We wanted something in the fall, but also wanted it to be far enough away that we had adequate time to train (this ended up being an unnecessary demand). We looked for October and November races in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon ticked all of our boxes and had those beautiful words “fast and flat” posted all over the race website. My two previous halves (halfs? I’m really hoping someone chimes in and corrects me) were in Pittsburgh (land of bridges and hills) and the Outer Banks (which is relatively flat, minus the sand dunes, but somehow they managed to locate the one hilly area and make this the last mile of the race), so this was music to my ears. We signed up and got to training.
I modified this Jenny Hadfield training plan. It was really important to me to find something that only had three run days per week. I’ve done plans with more than that I’m the past, and I always end up feeling completely burnt out and tired of running by the end of training. I don’t think I’m one of those people that LOVES running, but I enjoy the challenge and the discipline of training for a half marathon and it’s a great way to switch up my fitness routine. The modifications I made were to change the lengths of some of the long runs since I would be leaving to Greece for two weeks for part of the training.
This training cycle was my toughest yet, which was a real mind game for me since I was more fit and running more consistently than I had in the past. It was a huge adjustment to be training in the summer, the heat and humidity were pretty brutal. My previous races were spring races so my training took place in the preceding cool winter months. I was NOT used to having to set an alarm on Sunday mornings at 6 am so that I could get up before it was 1000 degrees outside. Even with the early hours, I would end my long runs completely soaked in sweat (sorry for being gross), like, I could actually wring out my shorts and had to bring a towel with me to wipe down after. I also had some nausea issues due to the heat and humidity. Despite all of this, I felt the pressure of running with another person (what a great motivator) and was determined to be able to keep up. I stuck with all of my scheduled long runs and got in a great feeling 10 miler before we left for Greece for two weeks in mid September.
That’s when things….declined. I didn’t run at all in Greece (I didn’t plan to) and figured I would just jump right back into the plan when I got home. I didn’t take into account the jet lag, and then we were hit with a LOT of rain here for two weeks straight. I wasn’t able to run outside (I’m just not hardcore enough to run in the rain) and I sure as shit wasn’t running that long on the treadmill.
Turns out, my friend was having some similar issues. The rain was affecting her area as well and she was working on starting out a new school year with classes she hasn’t taught before. We convened and decided that we would do the best we could at this race, which would involve some run/walk intervals, shooting to finish it strong and have fun.
This took a lot of pressure off and we both went into the weekend greening excited and ready to finish the dang thing!
Wilmington is about an hour and a half from Myrtle, so we went down late Friday night to give ourselves some time to relax and hang out and pick up our packet.
Saturday we were up and about around 10 am. We were really excited about the prospect of carb loading all day (the anticipated carb loading is probably 90% of what motivated us to sign up) and started the day strong with some brunch. We used Yelp to find Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery. We hydrated up with coffee, water and mimosas. For our meals we got the California eggs Benedict and chicken and waffles. We shared half of each because we are adorable like that.
Side tangent: I thought about framing this post in a travel-y way, but I don’t think I did a great job of finding local and authentic things to do here. Myrtle beach is rather commercialized (not saying good local places don’t exist, just that I didn’t make it a priority to find them) so I’m not sure our trip is a great reflection of what to do here. That said, I REALLY enjoyed both of the restaurants we hit and would highly recommend them to visitors. And they were certainly more charming than the typical calabash seafood buffets you see everywhere down there.
After brunch, we headed over to the expo to get our bibs. The expo was pretty basic and smaller than other ones I had been to. But we got our bibs quickly and easily and spent a little time browsing around. We started talking about race day outfits (typically this is something you would have planned out in advanced, but unprepared was the name of our game this weekend). The predicted weather for Sunday was a high in the mid-60’s. But of course, races start at early o’clock and our starting line temps wouldn’t be anywhere near the high for the day. We decided on shorts with fancy new pairs of compression socks that we bought at the expo (another major faux pas, don’t do anything untested on race day).
We spent the rest of the day shopping around. Myrtle Beach has a couple of great outlets, for this trip we went to this one, located right off Route 17. We had a successful shopping trip and suffice it to say my wallet and I aren’t on speaking terms right now.
For dinner we obviously wanted something carby. We used Yelp to find this burger joint, River City Cafe. We ate early, around 5 o’clock since we were looking to get an early bedtime. I got the Palmetto Cheeseburger and my friend got the Black-N-Blue. Both were delicious and the fries were fantastic. We loaded up on those bad boys.
We had an uneventful rest of the night, we had some beers (we limited ourselves to buying a six pack to avoid hangover) and partook in a lovely beach walk at sunset.
The next morning came quick, we set an alarm for 5:30 to get ready for the 7:00 am start. We got dressed quickly, ate our bagels with peanut butter and bananas and grabbed some coffee on the way to the start. We parked at Grand Coastal Mall, where the start line was. The Mini Marathon offered shuttles at the end of the race back to the starting line parking lot. This was the opposite of previous halfs/halves that I’ve done (shuttle in the morning from the finish line to the start) and I think I prefer it the other way. It’s nice to be done and next to your car to leave at the end of the race.
The corrals in this race were separated by times (rather than A, B, C, etc) which I really liked. We lined up by the 12:00 min/mile sign and tried to stay warm until the official start.
The first few miles were good, it felt great to get moving and warm up. We held a pretty steady 10:30 min/mile pace and focused on just trying to weave and thin out the crowd some. The water stops on this course were every 1.5 miles and had water and lemon-lime gatorade (my fav). My plan was to get Gatorade at all of the stops and eat my Gatorade chews every 2 miles or so. We switched to run/walk intervals around mile 3 and tried to stick to a 5 min run/1 min walk set up.
The initial race adrenaline started to wear off around mile 5. Krista put on some music for us (The Bachelorette Pandora station, for those interested) and that helped.
Around mile 8, you start running along Ocean Blvd and get glimpses of the beach and water which was lovely. Things definitely started feeling tough around mile 10. My knees were aching, Krista’s ankle was hurting and it was harder and harder to start up the run again after every walk break. We definitely started to feel our lack of training, but overall we were pretty pleased with our time and pacing (considering above mentioned lack of training). We kept making comments to each other that for the NEXT one, we were REALLY going to train hard! This is the first time I had run a race with another person and I REALLY enjoyed it. I thought for a loner curmudgeon such as myself, running with someone else would be the ultimate torture. But it was quite the opposite, it made the miles fly and having someone to complain with was lovely.
We stayed solid on executing our intervals and before we knew it, we had less than a mile to go! Things were getting really tough and we took a couple unscheduled walk breaks, but kept pushing ourselves to get running again. The finish line was truly a sight for sore eyes (and ankles and knees), and we crossed that bad boy in 2:42!
We did a little stretching, hydrating and banana-eating and then made our way to the real prize, the beer tent! There were three types of beers available, a grapefruit shandy, a lemon shandy and Sam Adams Octoberfest. The grapefruit shandy was SO refreshing and perfect after the long race. We had two beers and then headed back to the shuttle and eventually on home.
Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this race. The course was great and they definitely delivered on the “flat, fast” promise. The medals were cool, the beer was delicious and unlimited. The only factor that would make me pause before registering for it in the future is the summer training mentioned above. I just don’t know if I can force myself to do those “90 degrees and sunny” long runs again. I think this race would be ideal for someone who lived in a cooler climate and wanted to come down to Myrtle and make a trip of it. Or for someone who isn’t a huge weenie with summer running, like me.