Apparently the lure of a run along the ocean is stronger than anger - or snow.
The Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon had its biggest crowd of runners yet this year, despite last year's last-minute, snow-driven cancellation and the vows from angry runners not to return.
This year, 4,000 people signed up for the half-marathon; 2,890 signed up for the full 26.2-miler; and nearly 1,000 for the 5K, said race co-director Shaun Walsh. Last year, the race would have had 3,750 for the half-marathon, 2,850 for the full race and 800 for the 5K. Walsh said even the kids' fun run had about 200 more entrants this year.
Walsh said the amount of money raised for charities like the Red Cross hasn't been compiled yet, but overall, he said, the event was a huge success.
There was an issue among some runners with the new Jaguar timing system that uses a microchip embedded in each runner's race number that's worn on their running clothes. The timing company was posting the gun times, rather than the individual times measured by the chips, Walsh said, because there was a miscommunication about what race organizers wanted.
But those questions have been sorted out now, he said, and there was no problem with the timing system itself. This is the first year the race has used the Jaguar system. Previously, runners had radio-frequency wrist bands or bands that went on their shoes, but those were more delicate, or they had other kinds of tags on their race numbers that required tearing off at the end of the race.
The Jaguar chips, Walsh said, mean the runners' times are recorded automatically, and the runners do not have to do anything.
Myrtle Beach Police Capt. Faith Gildea said although the city has not held its official critique of the event, "on first blush, it went very well."
Gildea, who has helped with the police patrols and controls of the race course since its inaugural run 14 years ago, said she has so far received only one complaint, though she said it's likely there will be more because the race course was completely new this year and not everyone knew about the changes.
The changed course got rave reviews from runners, she and Walsh agreed, and affected city traffic much less than in previous years.
"The south end was completely cleared in four hours," Gildea said. "The majority of the city was free for travel the whole day, which has never happened before."
Walsh said the course designers made use of new roads in the city, including Grande Dunes Boulevard and Granddaddy Drive, the bike trail and other areas to keep the course from holding up too much traffic and to keep it interesting for runners.
One change was on Ocean Boulevard, where in the past, runners traced a figure eight between Ocean Boulevard and Kings Highway at the beginning of the run, essentially trapping traffic on the side streets in between.
The only criticism Gildea said she heard was from people who didn't like that a portion of the half-marathon route took people up and down Mr. Joe White Avenue, which blocked traffic for about four hours.
"I'm sure we will make a few tweaks, but we are hopeful this will be the permanent course," she said.
City Manager Tom Leath said the city will hold a postmortem with race organizers, the police department, the recreation and parks department, and others in the next couple of weeks to look at all aspects of the event and make improvements for next year.
"After you run the course a couple of times, you have all the kinks worked out," Leath said. "Now we'll have to work out the kinks on this one."
Walsh said changes in the course that incorporated more of Ocean Boulevard and The Market Common went over well.
"I went over to The Market Common to watch for a bit, and there was a really good vibe over there," he said. "A lot of people turned out to watch."
Walsh noted other changes he said also made the race and the whole weekend more user-friendly:
A marathon application people could download to their smart phones that gave directions from wherever they were offered all the information from the marathon's website and provided information on restaurants and other businesses that sponsored the marathon
A live radio broadcast
Text updates possible for every runner to keep family and friends abreast of their race progress
Electronic check-in instead of paper, making the race greener.
Best of all, organizers said, the weather was good.
"The temperature was perfect," Walsh said. "Every year, we say, 'This is the best year' - well, we didn't say that last year - but this year really was."
Contact LORENA ANDERSON at 444-1722.