Wind, rain kick off Myrtle Beach marathon but don’t dampen the day

vgrooms@thesunnews.comFebruary 15, 2014 

Clear skies had been predicted for Saturday’s Myrtle Beach Marathon, but the downpour that began around 5 a.m. didn’t dampen every runner’s spirits.

“I’ll take the rain over a bomb,” said Rachel Wheeler of Utah, who ran in last year’s Boston Marathon, finishing 10 minutes before two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 250 others.

Rain also was preferable to the nasty winter weather that hit the Myrtle Beach area and other parts of the country over the last few days. Hazardous weather conditions altered many runners’ plans for reaching Myrtle Beach – and may have stopped other registered runners from making the trip altogether – and marathon organizers accommodated late-comers by allowing bib pick-up before the race, beginning at 5 a.m.

Of 7,500 entries for the full and half marathons, about 6,300 runners finished the two races.

Wheeler and her friend Kim Labrum took advantage of the last-minute allowance, crowding into the small tent set up for bib pick-up Saturday morning. The runners had been scheduled to arrive in Myrtle Beach Thursday but didn’t get in until midnight Friday. Wheeler said they were running on only a couple hours of sleep, unlike their daughters, who were sacked out at the hotel.

“We brought our kids to play on a nice beach and to get out of the snow,” said Wheeler, who said this is their first trip to the Carolinas as the rain poured and the wind began to blow.

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Other runners said their trips were delayed by the weather and they got to the marathon with not much time to spare.

“I’ve had no sleep,” said Eleanor Afonso as she picked up her bib. “I wanted to get here Wednesday but didn’t make it until last night at 11 p.m.”

Afonso drove down from Flemington, N.J., and said she didn’t know if she’d be able to run – then she reconsidered.

“Maybe I’ll do 13 [miles],” she said.

Runners clad in trash bags, raincoats and even one bathrobe took shelter from the showers wherever they could find it, but the rain seemed to stop around 6:20 a.m. Cheers and hand-clapping began as they took their places on the course, and they were off when the starting horn sounded at 6:30 a.m.

The wind began to pick up where the rain left off, making it more difficult for runners and colder for those who assembled at the finish line to cheer them home. Gusts blew through periodically, blowing down the scaffolding at the marathon line that holds the timing sensors, but repairs were made before the first runners appeared.

Bruce Newman of Stella, N.C., raced in a crank chair and flew across the finish line long before the marathon winner.

“I do 10 or 12 a year, but this is one of my favorite marathons,” said Newman, although conditions weren’t the best this year. “The wind – it really was rough, and it’s getting rougher.”

The sun finally began popping in and out as half-marathoners finished their races, and there were no complaints from runners such as Alison Royal-Combs of Lake Norman, N.C., who was waiting on a fellow runner from Team Buttercup. The back of their team shirts say “Suck it up Buttercup,” which is a team mantra, she said. Royal-Combs may have run the half-marathon, but she said she is an ultrarunner, usually going distances longer than 26.2 miles – including one that was 24 hours.

“It’s mind over matter,” Royal-Combs said, “but I always love coming down here. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her on Twitter @TSN_VickiGrooms.

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