Clear skies, warm weather a welcome sight for organizers at Myrtle Beach Marathon

Technology has its flaws as some times slow to be posted

ablondin@thesunnews.comFebruary 20, 2011 

Sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s by mid-morning Saturday were a welcomed sight to Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon officials after cold and rain in 2009 and a cancellation due to a snowstorm last year.

"Two years ago it was rain, last year it was snow," marathon executive director Mike Shank said. "Typically this is the weather we've had for the marathon until the last couple years, so it will be nice to talk about something other than the weather."

The ideal conditions that included minimal wind greeted about 2,850 registered marathon and 4,000 half marathon runners, and allowed organizers to showcase more entertainment on the course and an expanded Runners' Village.

The Runners' Village included food for sale from Mellow Mushroom, Chik-fil-A and Benjamin's Bagels, kettle corn, free beer provided by Michelob Ultra and New South Brewery, a Surf Water Promotions race merchandise tent, a large stage featuring The Necessary Band, a digital TV screen showing finishers, a medal engraving booth, and booths for the Grand Strand Running Club, Red Cross and Leukemia Society.

The Runners' Village was first created in 2009 and is meant in part to clear congestion from around the finish lines. But the weather kept attendance at it scarce in '09.

"A lot of the things we envisioned for last year are taking place today: having this village out here, having the TV screen, having live music and having a great atmosphere out here," Shank said. "That's been something we've been working on. It didn't happen last year so it feels good to finally get this to take place and have this many people out here having a good time.

"We never got to experience the real feel of it."

Nunn just misses

Molly Nunn wasn't sure quite what to feel Saturday morning after crossing the finish line.

She had just completed her first full marathon in her second attempt, and had not only finished but done so fast enough to be the second woman across the line. And yet, it wasn't fast enough - not for what she ultimately wanted to accomplish.

Nunn, a 27-year-old former Wake Forest track and cross country runner, completed the 26.2-mile course in a time of 2 hours, 46 minutes and 59 seconds - finishing just shy of the mark of 2:46:00 she needed to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

"At first, I was going back and forth between really excited because I just ran a marathon and I was really close, and you know, kind of just pretty disappointed because I didn't hit the standard," Nunn said. "But it is February, and I'll do it again. I'll try again."

Nunn, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., entered her first marathon last month in Houston -- site of the Olympic trials next January -- and bowed out early after about 16 miles when she realized she wasn't going to hit the necessary qualifying mark that day. So she regrouped and headed for Myrtle Beach because she liked the flatness of the course.

She finished this time and felt the full effect of those 26.2 miles, commenting afterward that she felt the "proverbial wall" at around the 19th or 20th mile and will make some adjustments before taking another shot at that 2:46 mark in about six months.

"It was my first [completed] marathon, my first experience. I can definitely feel it right now," she said. "At the end of the day, I'm only about a minute away, and I'm happy with that. And I'm going to do it again."

At the start of the race, Nunn met Kathleen Castles, who had qualified for the 2008 Olympic trials and was looking to do so again for 2012. They didn't know each other before this weekend, but they were rooting for each other in their shared pursuit.

Soon after the 39-year-old Castles ended up winning the entire race with a time of 2:40:11, she turned to race president Shaun Walsh and asked "How's Molly doing? How's Molly doing?"

Castles would later put her arm around Nunn and tell her, "Don't worry, you'll get it."

"I'll try again, and I'll get the standard," Nunn said later. "I won't quit."

Maniac on the loose

Tamara Mackey of Seattle completed the Myrtle Beach Marathon in 5:03, and about two hours later she boarded a plane and flew to Austin, Texas, to participate in the Livestrong Austin Marathon today.

Seems like something only a maniac would do, right? That's pretty much the plan.

Mackey, 42, is a member of the international group known as the Marathon Maniacs. She's Member No. 392 out of what she estimates is about 3,000.

The group has different star levels and the highest is 10, which requires 30 marathons in 30 different states in one year. That is what Mackey is attempting to do in 2011. Myrtle Beach was her fourth. She completed marathons in Jackson, Miss., Milwaukee and Birmingham, Ala., and Austin will be her fifth.

"It's going to be a killer," Mackey said. "I'll be crying. I did it once two years ago. It's kind of miserable mentally. Your legs feel like lead because you just ran and mentally it's challenging. I remember looking at grass and I wanted to go over there and lie down. That's all I could think of. ... If I have to do some extra walking there will be some other people out there."

Three marathons in 90 days gets a runner to the first star of the Maniac scale. She has completed 27 marathons in the past five years, though usually at a clip of about five a year. This year will be expensive both to the bank account and body of the 41-year-old Heartland Payment Systems outside salesperson.

Her average time is about 4:45, and her pace is set by running four miles and walking one. "I do that as far as I can to about usually mile 22, then I crawl to the finish," Mackey said. "After the 30 are done, next year I'll train for speed."

Competitors heat up

Approximately 70 runners were treated by medical personnel Saturday, according to race medical director Dr. Mark Schecker.

Most of the cases were hyperthermia, or heat exhaustion, with symptoms such as vomiting and dehydration. "It kinds of makes sense with the weather," said Dr. Jarratt Lark, assistant medical director of the race's field hospital.

Both the total number treated and the number requiring intravenous fluids to rehydrate were more than the norm at past marathons.

Temperatures weren't oppressive for a marathon by any means, but the disparity in degrees for many runners who have been in the midst of a winter chill was enough to create overheating.

"Sometimes it doesn't really matter how hot it is, sometimes the change is enough to cause problems, and I think that's probably what we saw today," Dr. Schecker said. "They've been training in cold so their bodies aren't acclimated to it. It's not abnormally hot, but it's a change from what's been going on around the whole country."

One participant had to be transported to the hospital after having chest pain near the finish line, and that was the most serious medical condition. Another, who had been sick all week, needed three bags of IV and was nearly transported to a hospital.

"We were considering it but he rallied," Lark said. "As soon as we said to him we might have to transfer him he started feeling better. We should have said that right away."

The medical staff uncharacteristically saw more runners early in the race. "We saw more of the competitive runners as our patients than we normally do," Lark said.

Technical difficulties

The 2011 marathon featured increased technology with microchip timing and a vast area of wi-fi that was designed to register times and places in real time, but there were some glitches.

According to Bruce Bokish, a partner in the race timing company Precision Race who was on site, there was a delay in the posting of some marathon runners' start times, therefore their results couldn't be posted immediately.

Those runners were unable to get their finishing time and place on kiosks in the Runners' Village. "The system doesn't ever lose any data, it was a matter of finding it," Bokish said.

Results that were supposed to be streaming live and being updated every minute on the Internet were not posted until early in the evening, even for the 5K race that was run Friday night.

The full marathon awards ceremony was delayed nearly an hour as organizers sifted through scoring glitches believed to be caused by runners registered as marathon participants who only ran the half marathon.

Though the two races had different finish lines, sensitive antennas at the marathon finish line picked up the runners passing through the half marathon line and registered their times as marathon runners. Those times had to be weeded out by a software program that determined which runners never made it past 13.1 miles.

"Sometimes when you're dealing with wi-fi stuff you have hiccups," race president Shaun Walsh said. "The number of times they tested it, it worked perfectly, so we had no reason to believe it wouldn't work."

Feeling like Chicken Little

Julie Dural of Myrtle Beach sees no shame in finishing second in Friday evening's 5-kilometer women's race at Broadway at the Beach. As a matter of fact, she considers finishing second to Zola Budd Pieterse an honor.

Budd Pieterse, 44, who moved to the Grand Strand in August 2008 and has assisted with the track and field teams at Coastal Carolina University, is a two-time Olympian and two-time winner of the World Cross Country Championships.

She finished the 5K in 18:17, about 1:40 ahead of Dural, who is a co-creator of the Myrtle Beach Marathon application for a number of smart phones that was utilized this week by many of the participants.

Dural does have one issue with her runner-up finish, however. She wishes Budd Pieterse could forfeit her earnings as the best local finisher.

"The only thing wrong with that is she got free Chik-fil-A for a year and she's not even going to eat it," Dural said. "I would have definitely eaten it. I love Chik-fil-A. I'm jealous."

Jefferson Waugh of Statesville, N.C., won the 5K in 16:15.

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