The date changed this year for the 19th Myrtle Beach Marathon, but the air was still chilly as more than 4,200 participants made their way to the starting line Saturday morning.
With temperatures hovering in the upper 30s, runners were still huddling and warming up under tinfoil-like cloaks, known as heat sheets. Spotlights still illuminated the starting line on a dark morning. But a new day was dawning for the Myrtle Beach Marathon as the sun made it to its starting line before the runners for the first time in the race’s history.
The marathon has always been held in mid-February with runners stepping off in the dark of morning with a cool 30-minute lead on the sun, but unpredictable winter weather and a rise of events in February prompted race officials to move the race to March.
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The date change may have thwarted the return of some runners – 4,230 competed this year, compared to 5,431 participants last year – but having the event in March thrilled others.
It’s a little bit warmer. It feels a little better when you first start plus … it gets you a little closer to spring.
Chip Huff, a third-time half marathon runner at the Myrtle Beach Marathon
“I think the weather is certainly nicer,” said Michael Hackman, a timer subcontracting with the event’s timing experts, Precision Timing out of Raleigh, N.C., before the marathon started. “Normally we’re standing out here shivering and we’ve had years, you know, where there’s been rain and years where there’s been wind and of course you can still have that kind of stuff in March, but the date is a little bit better I think for the facilities and for putting things together.”
The later date also made the drive a little easier for out-of-state participants who have had to battle winter weather to make it to the race.
“We definitely liked it better,” said Brandy Huff of Roanoke, Va., who has run the half marathon with her husband, Chip Huff, for the past three years. “We always hit snow on that weekend every single time so it’s harder to get here.”
The Huffs had to trek through nearly two feet of snow through the Virginia mountains to make it to the race the past two years. The weather was better for this race.
“It’s a little bit warmer. It feels a little better when you first start plus … it gets you a little closer to spring,” Chip Huff said of the marathon’s move to March.
Normally we’re standing out here shivering and we’ve had years, you know, where there’s been rain and years where there’s been wind and of course you can still have that kind of stuff in March, but the date is a little bit better I think for the facilities and for putting things together.
Michael Hackman, timer at the event
“So much better. Oh I love it. So much warmer,” said Ian Lundy, 15, of High Point, N.C., as he struggled to catch his breath seconds from the finish line. A relay racer with the Wesleyan Christian Academy team from Randleman, N.C., Lundy was the first relay team member to cross the finish line for the full marathon Saturday morning.
“This was perfect. It was easier to see,” Lundy said.
The first man across the finish line for the full marathon Saturday was 29-year-old Brad Reach of Metamora, Ill., who finished the 26.2-mile race just under two hours and 40 minutes. This was his first marathon. The soon-to-be father of two started training about seven weeks before the race, running 20-mile courses.
He said he knew the weather would be hit or miss.
“Looking at the forecast a couple of weeks out I thought it was going to be in the 50s you know at the start of the race, but I think it was 39 this morning,” Reach said. “But it warmed up nicely. … It was a great day to run today.”
The earlier sunrise illuminated more of the course.
“Most distance runners are used to getting up early and running in the dark and honestly when you’re running in the dark you’re not quite thinking about the mile markers as much. I would actually prefer about 30 or 40 minutes in the dark but it’s alright, it worked out,” said the 2016 Myrtle Beach Marathon champion.
The new race date also came with enhanced security measures, including bag checks at the finish line and barricades along the course to protect the runners. Several agencies assisted the Myrtle Beach Police Department in security and traffic control throughout the course.
The police department also employed an online interactive map to help motorists get around the streets that were closed for the marathon.
Myrtle Beach police Lt. Joey Crosby said there were no security or traffic issues during the morning’s race.