MYRTLE BEACH — Dean Thompson swears the medication he took in the past couple days for a head cold did not contain deer antler spray.
Though that would have provided a better explanation for what he was able to accomplish Saturday in the 16th annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon.
The 47-year-old from Cohutta, Ga., took nine minutes off his previous best marathon time and earned his first marathon victory in a time of 2 hours, 39 minutes and 14 seconds.
“I’m very surprised, especially given the fact I’m sick,” Thompson said. “I didn’t think I had a prayer of winning.”
Saturday’s race was Thompson’s fifth marathon, and he finished ahead of approximately 2,250 participants in the 26.2-mile distance. Approximately 4,400 people ran the Dasani Half Marathon. His time is about 13 minutes behind the race record of 2:26:26, set last year by Stuart Moran of Arden, N.C.
Thompson’s goal was 2:45, which would have bettered his previous personal best of 2:48 set in Myrtle Beach in 2011, and the best he thought he was capable of was 2:42.
“I haven’t been feeling well for the past week or so. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to run today,” Thompson said. “I went to the doctor and got a shot a couple days ago and felt a little bit better but I still had all this congestion in my head. Still today I have congestion. But I was in good shape.”
Thompson’s first marathon was in his early 30s and it took him another decade to run his second one primarily because he and his wife, Debbie, were raising two children. The division manager for the Shaw Industries carpet manufacturer has run one a year for the past four years.
“I’ve worked real hard over the last few years,” Thompson said. “I’ve been in better shape probably than I have been since I was in high school, and I’ve stayed healthy. You know when you get old it’s hard to stay healthy, just have all kinds of aches and pains.”
Thompson felt strong throughout the race and passed 32-year-old runner-up Jason Luyster of Glenville, W.Va., inside the final two miles. There were no signs of distress until the 26-mile mark, when Thompson’s right hamstring started to cramp.
“I didn’t start cramping up until the last .2 miles,” Thompson said. “I thought, ‘Oh no.’ I thought [Luyster] was going to catch up to me.”
He finished 36 seconds ahead of Luyster. Thompson ran the half marathon in 1:21 and was hoping he’d be able to keep up the pace. But he actually bettered the pace by approximately 3 minutes in the second half.
“I just felt great,” Thompson said. “I went through the first half a little bit faster than I intended. I hoped I could keep it going and I did; I actually picked it up over the last half. It was a good day.”
Early in the race, Thompson and Luyster chatted as they ran beside each other, and Luyster told Thompson he was shooting for 2:40. “When I saw him and was catching him I was hoping he was on pace,” Thompson said.
Thompson used his 2:48 time in 2011 to get into last year’s Boston Marathon, and that was his only marathon in 2012. He may use his time Saturday to qualify and participate in Boston again in 2014.
“I usually only do one marathon a year,” said Thompson, who is a member of the Chattanooga Track Club Masters Cross Country Team and prefers races between the distances of 10 kilometers and 13.1-mile half marathons. “I don’t like to do a whole lot of them. It’s pretty draining. … Marathon is still not my thing. I like the shorter stuff better.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.