Melvin Coleman of Greenville, N.C., gets people to stand at attention when he runs past them. The Stars & Stripes can do that.
He ran Saturday’s 17th MyrtleBeach.com Myrtle Beach Marathon as he runs all his races now, with a 3-by-5-foot American flag in tow. He attaches the wooden flagstick to his body by wrapping it inside ace bandages that are wrapped around his waste and chest.
“I started this back in 1998 after Florence Griffith Joyner died. I did it as a tribute to her,” Coleman said. “I did that in Portland, Ore., and so many people liked it I said, ‘Well I’ll keep doing it.’ Over the years it has evolved. So many people seem to be inspired by it.”
Coleman was a Marine from 1988-92. He receives thanks from numerous people at each race.
“I think it has significance to other people because everyone seems to have loved ones in the military and it seems to mean something to them,” he said. “So many people come up to me and tell me they’re thinking of their son or daughter who is serving right now. That to me is worth the effort.”
He has run 70 marathons, including the past 61 with the flag attached. That number includes nine Myrtle Beach marathons.
“It doesn’t slow me down,” said Coleman, who finished the marathon in 5 hours and 53 minutes. “In actuality, some days it’s the only thing that’s carrying me. Like today, the wind was brutal and it was cold. If I wasn’t carrying this flag I probably would have dropped out or settled for a half [marathon], but since I’m carrying it, I said, ‘I’m just going to keep going.’ ”
The relay made its return Saturday after an 11-year hiatus, and a team from Strictly Running out of Columbia won by nearly 24 minutes over another Strictly Running team in 2:25:45.
Swansea native Daniel Amick ran the 6.2-mile anchor leg, and because one runner in the five-member team backed out of the race Friday, Jonathan Kinsey ran two of the five-mile legs.
“He’s a stud,” Amick said. “He was our horse today.”
The team has Columbia roots, though Amick now lives in Asheville, N.C., and one teammate lives in Brevard, N.C.
“I’ve never run this,” Amick said. “Our coach, Mark Bedenbaugh, he has done it a couple times and he hyped it up for us. We were pretty thrilled to do it. You could have turned the wind down a little bit, but otherwise it was pretty good.”
Safe and sound
According to race medical director Dr. Mark Schecker, the race’s medical staff saw a number of runners for the common marathon ailments of cramping, dehydration, exhaustion, bumps and bruises. But no one fell seriously ill or was seriously injured.
Schecker said one runner was transported to a hospital from the course for being “dehydrated and maybe a little hypothermic,” and one was transported to a hospital from the finish line. “But she looked like she would be fine,” Schecker said.
“There was a lot of cramping because of the wind and the colder temperatures, and people needed fluid replacement,” Schecker said. “But nothing really, really serious, so it was a good day for us.”
A number of people celebrated their birthdays by running 26.2 miles Saturday. Beth Little of Morgantown, W.Va., and 45-year-old twin sisters were among them.
Little turned 30 on Friday and ran her fifth marathon to recognize the occasion.
“It’s a celebration,” she said. “It was a big day. It was great: a nice flat course on the coast. The wind was tough but it was nice.”
After the race, she was seen wearing a colorful sash that pronounced “Kiss me it’s my birthday” and carrying a bouquet of red roses and a pink stuffed monkey fitted with a headband, which she received as surprise gifts after she crossed the finish line from her husband, Will.
Twins Jill Shroyer of Johnstown, Pa., and Justine Seabolt of Rockingham, N.C., ran their first marathons Saturday on their birthdays, though they have both run in multiple half marathons in the past.
“Back in September she said, ‘Hey, let’s do a marathon on our birthday in Myrtle Beach,’ ” Shroyer said. “I was like, ‘That’s enough time to train. I’ll try. It sounds like fun.’ ... It was a great way to spend our birthday. I don’t know what we’ll do next year, though.”
Seabolt, who is three minutes older, came out ahead again, finishing more than an hour ahead of her sister in 4:28:56.
“This is the best birthday ever,” Seabolt said. “I’m thrilled I did it, but I am out of energy. I’m done.”
Bucko and family
Several members of the Doheny family finished last as a group in the Dasani Half Marathon in more than 4:22, and they were pleased as punch to do so. In fact, it was essentially their strategy.
“Start out slow and back off,” joked Mike Doheny of Stafford, Va.
Saturday was Doheny’s 60th birthday, so at the suggestion of one of his daughters the family got together to participate in the 13.1-mile walk. Doheny’s sisters, two daughters, grandson and son-in-law traveled from Virginia, Tallahassee, Fla., and Fort Rucker, Ala., to cross the finish line hand-in-hand.
“It’s my 60th birthday so we wanted to do something, so we came out here and did this,” Doheny said.
The family wore their names/nicknames on the back of their coordinated blue shirts, and the name they called Doheny on the front. Doheny had all of those names on the back of his shirt: Daddy O, Baby, G’Pa, Michael P, Dad, Grandpa and Bucko.
Beneficent in memory
Nineteen members of Team Matt brought their philanthropic efforts to the marathon.
The group is named after the son of Larry and Jan Blackwell of Lancaster, who died in a car accident at the age of 15 in 2001. His parents created a foundation in his name that grants scholarships to graduating high school student-athletes in Lancaster County.
Last year 15 members of Team Matt ran the half marathon, and this year 15 people comprised three relay teams and four others ran the half marathon. Members of the group solicit pledges for their marathon participation, and they have other annual fundraisers.
“It was very successful last year and we probably did better this year,” Larry Blackwell said. All of the relay participants waited near the finish line for the anchor runners and the group of 15 crossed the finish line en masse.
Defending his turf
Last year’s marathon winner, Dean Thompson of Cohutta, Ga., returned to defend his title, but the field was stronger in 2014 and Thompson was unable to repeat his performance of last February.
Thompson finished third in 2:45:19, which was more than 15 minutes after winner Tom Clifford and more than six minutes off his winning time last year.
“I defended. I don’t know how valiantly it was, but it was fun anyway,” Thompson said. “I was hoping to run as well as I did last year but I just didn’t have it in me today. I never really felt good today, and I really started getting tight in that second half.
“But I just praise the Lord I can still run at 48 years old.”
The 2013 Myrtle Beach Marathon was Thompson’s last competitive marathon, though he’s running in Boston in two months.
The morning rain postponed the appearance of Bubbles the elephant, but in keeping with the 2014 race’s “Running with the Pack” theme, a gibbon ape named Saiuka Shaucha was at the start of the race to high-five passing runners. Gibbons are native to the forests of Southeast Asia.
“We couldn’t get the elephant [so we] improvised with the gibbon,” said race advertising director Bill Stanton.
Bubbles made a later appearance at the awards ceremony and was available for pictures with the winners and other high finishers.
The animals are supplied by The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in Myrtle Beach and the race benefits the Rare Species Fund for International Wildlife Conservation.
Many runners took the Bubbles approach before the race. Because individual times are based on chip technology, many remained undercover until the rain stopped a few minutes before the race and made a dash for the start line once the main pack had cleared.
Marathon Man drops in
For Marathon Man, the journey continues. Australian Trent Morrow, who runs in a blue, red and yellow superhero Marathon Man outfit, began a stretch of eight marathons in nine days Saturday.
He’ll be running in the Mercedes-Benz Marathon in Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday, four indoor marathons Tuesday through Friday around a track on consecutive days in Goshen, Ind., and weekend marathons in Tennessee and Florida.
Following a marathon in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 28, he’s flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to board a ship that will take him to Antarctica over 10 days to run about his 160th race on his seventh continent in the past year.
“I basically draw the line in the ice and that’s the end of the journey for now,” Morrow said. “Hopefully I’ll run the most number of official marathons over seven continents in one year.”
Morrow and girlfriend Jessica Workman of Columbia, a former University of South Carolina soccer player, finished in 5:05 Saturday. They met March 9 at Workman’s first marathon and she has since run 11 with Morrow. The 12th will be Sunday.
“He’s inspired me to run more,” Workman said. “I never, ever would have thought I could do back-to-back marathons like I have with him.”
The winner of the women’s competition in Friday night’s Neon Night 5K was 12-year-old Alexandria Wall of Weddington, N.C., in a time of 20:33.
She finished 13 seconds ahead of 28-year-old runner-up Jennifer Boutin of Newark, Del., and 4:37 before men’s winner Matt Shock of Greenville. Ethan Epstein of Myrtle Beach finished third, 1:36 after Shock in 17:32.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.