The Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon has a theme for its 16th running on Feb. 16: Run Wild.
Marathon organizers have partnered with Dr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species wildlife education organization that he oversees to include a number of animals in race activities and benefit the Rare Species Fund charity.
Trained animals from the T.I.G.E.R.S. wild animal nature preserve in the Socastee area are scheduled to make appearances at the race-affiliated runner’s expo, 5-kilometer race, Ripley’s Family Fun Run and the Dasani Half Marathon and Bi-Lo marathon races.
“We’re going to see how well it’s received and how to incorporate it, and if it’s successful we’ll hope to build on that in future years,” Myrtle Beach Marathon president Shaun Walsh said.
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If all goes as planned and weather permitting:
• The HTC Expo will feature a baby tiger habitat. Antle’s staff will be in attendance to talk about Tigers being endangered, what the institute is doing to try to protect them and how people can help. The expo will be held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center from 5-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 and from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 15.
• Orangutans will be present at the Ripley’s Fun Run at 5:30 p.m. and the 5k at 7 p.m. on Feb. 15, both at Broadway at the Beach.
• Bubbles the elephant will be at the start of the marathon and half marathon on Grissom Parkway near 21st Ave. North at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 16, and may be positioned in the middle traffic isle to have runners going past her on both sides. Orangutans and a tiger may be at the finish at TicketReturn.com Field, as well.
The marathon has been donating to Horry County Schools, the Red Cross and Leukemia Society in recent years, so it will add raising awareness for wildlife preservation and benefitting the Rare Species Fund to philanthropic purposes this year.
“Because of the travel involved, if we were anywhere else in the country he probably wouldn’t be able to do it for the amount we’ll be able to raise for him this year,” Walsh said.
Walsh said registration is on pace with the 2012 race, which set records with approximately 2,800 runners in the marathon, 4,500 runners in the half marathon and 1,100 participants in the 5k. The Fun Run had about 2,400 participants in 2012, which is the most since 2008.
Limits this year are 3,000 for the marathon, 5,000 for the half marathon and 1,500 for the 5k.
Post-race bicycle rides on Sunday, Feb. 17 will leave from the Waccamaw Shrine Club on Elm Street on the marina in downtown Conway. A 63-mile ride begins at 9 a.m., a 33.5-mile ride begins at 9:15 a.m., and a 14.2-mile ride begins at 9:30 a.m. Proceeds from the rides benefit Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs.