After taking a 20-year break, Eddie Posey of Easley got back into running about six years ago.
“I turned 40 and had a mid-life crisis and wanted to see what my body could still do,” Posey said.
Apparently, it can still do a lot.
Just four years after running his first marathon in 2014 in Myrtle Beach, Posey captured his first marathon victory in his sixth attempt Saturday, finishing in a time of 2:43:11.
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“I’m pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect to be the first man across the finish line today,” Posey said. “. . . Today was a huge accomplishment.”
The 21st Myrtle Beach Marathon featured more than 4,400 runners registered for Saturday's full marathon, half marathon, marathon relay and 5K races, including 1,263 in the full 26.2-mile distance.
Posey, the coordinator of technology for the Pickens County School District, ran recreationally in his teens, never really competing.
Then he had some injuries including Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome down his left leg, which he attributes to poor training and lack of training knowledge, and gave up running for two decades.
Armed with better training techniques, Posey said he averaged 50 miles of training for 12 consecutive weeks leading up to Saturday’s race, including 10 weeks in which he ran 20 miles each Saturday.
“I feel really blessed to be able to cross the finish line, be it fast or slow I’m just thankful,” Posey said. “I just try to put the work in and see where it takes me.”
Posey, 46, cut more than 24 minutes off his first marathon time four years ago, and did so through a strong wind that was particularly difficult and against the runners for a long stretch on Ocean Boulevard.
Posey finished about 2 1/2 minutes ahead of runner-up Paul Newnham of Charlotte, N.C., and he and third-place finisher Spencer Johnson of Bon Air, N.C., helped each other through tough stretches of the course.
“It was very tough on the boulevard right about the halfway point, around mile 13, there were some gusts strong enough we were just leaning into it, barely moving,” Posey said. “Spencer and I teamed up about mile 13 through 19 just trading off mile for mile trying to help each other with the wind. I’d tuck behind him for a mile and he’d tuck behind me for a mile.”
Posey will be running in his second Boston Marathon in six weeks.
Jen Helmer knew if she beat her good friend, Sheila Grangroth, she’d have a good chance to win the women’s division of the Myrtle Beach Marathon.
They ran in the same marathon for the first time three weeks ago in Hilton Head Island, and Helmer finished first while Grangroth finished third.
Grangroth, of Mount Pleasant, the owner of the South East Brokers insurance company, was ahead of Helmer for nearly the entire race Saturday before Helmer passed her around mile 25 and claimed a victory.
Helmer, 31, of Johns Island, finished in 3:09:18, which is about four minutes off her personal best set in Buffalo last year. Grangroth finished 11 seconds behind and set a personal best.
“She’s the reason I did so well today,” Helmer said. “I could not let her beat me. . . . She keeps getting faster and faster and I just kind of stagnate.”
Helmer, a Rochester, N.Y., native and bartender at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, has won four of her 13 marathons. She was a runner in high school and has continued to compete in races. “I absolutely love running. It gives me such clarity,” she said. “It’s one of the best things in my life, and I’ve always thought that way.”
Her running career has been beset with injuries, including about three years of sciatic nerve damage after giving birth to her son. Her goal is to soon finish in less than 3 hours.
“I’ve had knee problems, hip problems, a hamstring injury, everything,” Helmer said. “I had no pain today and it felt fantastic.”