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Taking in Charleston via the Charleston Half Marathon and 5K

16299021661_bf26caba9f_zWe left our campground in Mount Pleasant by 6AM – for a 30 minute drive into downtown Charleston.  At 36 degrees, I was expecting to be bone cold while waiting outdoors 1.5 hours for the 8AM start but the run gods were on our side as Burke Middle School was open and all 4300 runners piled inside.

This is where I met Rosanne – a lovely lady in her early 50’s who is a cancer survivor and has run over 30 marathons and a few Iron-Man triathlons.  She was quite inspiring and engaging and I nearly forgot that I was preparing to run a half marathon.  With 10 minutes before the race starts, I said goodbye to my new friend – and stepped outdoors. Brrr.  I was wearing too many clothes for running – but I really need to stay warm at the start.  Aaah, the runner’s dilemma boils down to how much clothing to wear.

But wait — the race organizers announced that the runners can drop off any extra clothing ALONG THE COURSE at the water stations – and the volunteers will bag these for you and take your clothes to the finish.  Wow.  This is pure luxury – and one of the reasons why I am loving smaller sized running events. Yes there were 4300 of us running either the half or full marathon — but it still felt as if it was a small city race.

I opted to stay with the 2:00 hour pace signs. Not sure if that was do-able – but I would aim for the stars today.  It was sunny and beautiful, no wind, and you had a sense that the temperatures would soon rise. I wore my iVue video glasses and had a blast capturing some of the interesting sights. From the Citadel start we quickly made our way down the west side of the Charleston pennisula to the promenade / the Battery with magestic views of the Charleston Harbor.

At mile 3, we turned north onto King Street and by mile 4 we were in the heart of the downtown shopping district.  By now 2 water stops had passed by – and I wasn’t quite ready to give up my extra clothing. At mile 8 – I handed my favorite running vest, jacket and neck gaitor to a lovely volunteer who assured me I would be reunited with my clothing at the finish. By now the temperatures were in the upper 40’s.

Along miles 8-10 – we are running in an industrial section just before reaching Northern Charleston. The roads are wide, and the running conversations have subsided. I can still see the 2 hour pacer sign just ahead of me, but I was beginning to tire. We crossed over what seemed like a hundred railroad tracks, and were now heading toward the North Charleston waterfront. This section morphed into a semi-trail run -and the scenery along the Cooper River was outstanding. My Garmin was clocking 1/2 mile further than the mile markers. This means that when I reached mile marker 12 on the course…my Garmin had registered 12.5 miles. I hoped this would be reconciled by the time I finished – I’m getting really tired now and don’t want to run an extra 1/2 mile.

16113271518_4195ef1288_zAt about the course mile 12 marker – I decide that I have enough juice left to pass the 2:00 hour pace runners. Maybe I can break the 2 hour mark today. It feels so close so I decide to give it a try. Let me just say – that last 1.1 mile felt like the longest 1.1 mile I’ve ever run. Just when you thought you had made the last turn and the finish line would be visible…there was no finish. Still more to run. The crowds in historic downtown Northern Charleston were fabulous though – and kept me pumped up to keep on pace – whatever that might be. Finally, after I thought my lungs would burst – I saw the finish and pushed myself to find a little more. My garmin registered 13.5 miles at 2 hours and 38 seconds. The official time I discovered later – was 2 hours and 24 seconds. So close to breaking 2…

Update:  Later discovered that the police car lead vehicle took all of us out for some additional mileage.  The officials re-measured the course post-event, and corrected everyone’s time for the added distance. I sub-2 hour’d after all – 1:58:44!

16274883746_f715d9358a_zNext on the docket is to find Paddy who did his first 5K – called the Charleston Shrimp and Grits 5K. And there he was – waiting for me near the coffee truck proudly displaying his 5K medal. We enjoyed the festivities at the finish – the bands, vendors and homemade cookies. And I was eventually reunited with my extra clothing dropped off at mile 8.  Great race and loved having a chance to explore Charleston in a way that would not typically happen — on roads closed to traffic and on foot.

With temperatures reaching the upper 50’s, I spent the rest of the day walking along the downtown harbor promenade, mesmerized by the harbor and the history along the Charleston peninsula.

Take a 3 minute video tour — of the Charleston Half Marathon:

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