Just about three weeks ago (on February 1st to be exact; yes, I know I’m slacking big time on the blog posts), I ran the Save the Light Half Marathon along the streets of Folly Beach, SC despite the fact that I had run my first full marathon a mere two weeks prior. I was a bit wary (as well as apologetic towards my legs) about running another 13.1 miles after barely surviving the full a couple weeks before. However, I’ve never been accused of making the smartest decisions and I really wanted to contribute towards the cause, and thus I signed up and ultimately lined up on race morning.
As for the cause, the proceeds from the race were going towards Save The Light, Inc., a grass-roots, non-profit organization committed to initially “saving” and now preserving the Morris Island Lighthouse. Now I love lighthouses. Why? Perhaps it’s because of my Jersey roots and the fact that I spent so many summer hours out on Sandy Hook while growing up, and thus got to take in the majesty of the lighthouse there on a regular basis. Who knows? Regardless, the fact remains that when a lighthouse needs saving, you know I’ll be there!
Getting back to the race itself, another plus for me were the facts that the race was on the small side (280ish finishers for the half marathon and another 200 or so for the 5K) and very local to me as Folly Beach is essentially right down the road from where I live on James Island. Quick transit time, a familiarity with the course, and not having to worry about parking nightmares can go a long way on race morning!
Start time for the race was 8:30am, and thus I arrived on Folly around 8:15, found a parking spot, and started to walk the three or so blocks over to the starting line. Stepping out of the warmth and dryness of my car, I quickly realized that the weather gods were not in the best of moods this morning.
Luckily, the race was not on the beach itself but rather through the streets of the Folly Beach neighborhood. As everyone lined up, the sky was “spitting” rather than producing any significant rain, but there was that damp chill in the air that made the 40F temps feel significantly cooler.
As everyone stood around talking about how chilly it seemed and their hopes that it wouldn’t “really” rain, the starting gun fired without any warning or preamble and off we went!
Given that the entirety of Folly Beach is roughly 7 miles and this race took place wholly on the East side of the island, you can imagine that this wasn’t a point to point race or a pure out and back course. Instead, the biggest continuous stretch of miles came along one road (Ashley Ave) with the rest of the mileage coming from different loops of varying distances within the neighborhood roads. The course was actually pretty ingenious as it managed to cover a USATF certified 13.1 miles within a smallish chunk of real estate. Sadly, the course didn’t allow one to see the lighthouse while on the run itself as this would be impossible without running off-road and onto the beach, but the course took us as close to the lighthouse as we could get while still staying on black top. I like to think that ol’ Morris knew we were running for him and could feel our presence there.
I felt pretty solid during the first 2-3 miles as I stayed within myself and didn’t push too hard. My legs felt a bit stiff at first, but quickly loosened up. Unfortunately, however, as my legs loosened up the skies opened up! Soon there was a torrential downpour upon us, and we were all a bunch of fools running through heavy rain. I don’t typically mind running in the rain (unless it’s a very cold rain on a cold day), and I actually usually enjoy it. This day was no different. As I became progressively more soaked, I had one of those “Why do you do this to yourself?” thoughts that amused me, but otherwise I didn’t let the rain dampen my spirits too much (top-tier humor there!).
Luckily, the weather gods took mercy on us and the rain abated after a few miles. I continued to feel strong, hovering around my goal of an 8:00 minute/mile pace. I started to waver a bit as we entered into a long stretch of Ashley Ave that is pretty wide open and near the shoreline, thus offering very little protection from the headwind that was constantly trying to sap all my energy. I promised myself that things would be significantly easier once I hit the turn around point at the end of Ashley Ave (aka near Morris’s home). The pessimistic side of my brain tried to argue that I had no basis for such a promise, but I tried to drown him out with some “Augustines”.
Coming up on the turn around, the elite runners passed all us chumps going the other way, looking strong, graceful, and as though they were born to run as I’m sure all us mere mortals looked slovenly, uncoordinated, and completely gassed. Nonetheless, I tried to put on a face that said “this isn’t my first rodeo and I feel great” as I passed the course photographer at the turn around. I even posed with a fist pump type of move because nothing exudes false confidence like that gesture. Sadly, I haven’t seen those photos yet (let’s pretend I was waiting for them to get posted before I wrote this recap), so I don’t know how it all came off…
After the turn around, the course did actually get a bit more manageable as the head wind became more of a tail wind and I felt rejuvenated by all the other runners around me, waving and nodding to others that were still making their way to the turn around point. Around mile 9, I downed a couple of Shot Bloks with Gatorade from my water bottle as I was beginning to feel I was dragging a bit.
As I came into the last few miles of the race, it started to get a bit more mentally challenging as we were going in and out of neighborhood loops that we had already covered in the past. I always feel like retreads on a course are a bit mentally draining and tough to stay motivated for. Plus it made it more difficult to gauge where exactly we were going and how close we were from the finish (even though my Garmin was obviously providing stats for me). Furthermore, after mile 10 I found myself running pretty much by myself as the field was thinning out over the many in and out loops. I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I find it tough to stay on pace when I’m out there all by myself (one major reason why I shouldn’t be an ultrarunner…that and the lack of endurance). I tell myself I’m just running for and against myself, but still my competitive side doesn’t want to see me get passed by someone when the field has thinned out to that point and that late in a race. Maybe I just need to think less…
In any case, I luckily started to close on a dude that was running ahead of me and looking strong. For the last 1.5 miles (as the rain started to come down again), I simply stayed within a few paces of him as he led us to the finish line. He was running strong and thus I never felt the need or desire to pass him, and instead just stayed with him through his kick to the finish line. After we crossed the line, he turned to me and said, “Thanks for the push”. I told him I was just happy to hang on.
Ultimately, I finished in 1:43:50 which is a half marathon PR for me! Thus, I was very happy with my performance overall.
About 15 seconds after crossing the line, it started to really rain again. My fiancée and sister were supposed to meet me after the race at the finish, but fortunately for them (in this case) they’re slackers and thus were “just leaving” my house when I called them after cooling down for a minute. I told them not to bother, and that I would rather meet them back in the dryness of our home.
The next morning, Alicia and I went out for a little Sunday run together. We had planned on running on the beach, but high tide pushed us back out to the streets of Folly Beach. Alicia had only wanted to run 5ish miles, but I tricked/persuaded/pushed her to run a bit further so that we could get to ol’ Morris given that she had never actually seen the lighthouse and the fact that I saved him the day before. After a little bit of “Negative Nancy” talk, she pushed through and persevered to complete her longest run to date. Victory!