Columbia Marathon 2012 Review

Mar 11, 2012 by

Columbia Marathon 2012 Review

On March 10, 2012, I ran in the inaugural Columbia, SC Marathon.  The event had around 550 runners in the full marathon and 750 in the half.

Here are my thoughts on the race in general:

First, let me start out saying that Dan Hartley and his team did a wonderful job organizing this event.  Organizing a race of this magnitude is quite an undertaking and it seemed to go off  smoothly.  I did not experience any major problems and did not hear any complaints. Also, I don’t know what kind of deal he made to bring  the “Chamber of Commerce” weather, but that was an added bonus.

Headquarters: The Columbia Convention Center served as ground zero for all the marathon activities. This proved to be an excellent choice -plenty of room for the race expo and other activities. Plenty of restroom facilities (at least for the men. Do women ever have enough?) Also, this was a nice place to duck in before the race to get warm. That was a cold wind whipping down Lincoln street before the race!

Race Swag: Easily one of the best race shirts I have received (or will receive. I signed up right before the deadline for shirt guarantee, so mine hasn’t arrive yet). The medals were really good, too, with the Columbia Famously Hot, Surprising Cool slogan and a cutout  of the city skyline (see below). I believe everyone received a State Farm happy sack, too, with the obligatory coupons and other race announcements.

Aid stations: Plenty of stations with water, Gatorade and Gu. One minor suggestion I’d make would be to have the water coolers more easily accessible for people carrying their bottles to refill.

Race Bib With Name

Misc: The race bibs had our names on them. That is always a nice touch and appreciated, especially when the three cute girls at mile 5 yelled “Go, Greg”.

The bibs also had the lightweight timing chips applied to the back. I like this system much better than the shoe chips.

The post race spread was pretty good, too – bananas, granola bars, mini bagels and water.

Weather:  As I mentioned in my preview, I was concerned about the weather. Mid-March in Columbia can have a wide variety of weather. I was mostly concerned about too hot – this is the Famously Hot Columbia Marathon after all. Thankfully, the weather was just about perfect, ranging from about 40 degrees at the start to the mid-50’s, I think, when I finished.

Here are a couple of minor changes I suggest:

1. As mentioned earlier, put water and/or Gatorade coolers at the end of the aid stations to allow easier refilling of personal water bottles.  I carried my own to better judge fluid intake and this would have been helpful.  I used the coolers that were there, I just had to wander back behind the tables. The Kiawah Marathon encourages people to bring their own bottles to reduce cup waste and provides easy access to coolers.

2.  If the post race spread had any sports drink, I completely missed it.  So, I’d like to see a sports drink option.  I’d also like to see chicken noodle soup.  Yep, chicken noodle soup. Myrtle Beach had this last year and it may have been the best cup of soup ever.

Am I just missing the finish clock?

3.  A bigger clock at the finish or at least above the finish line.  Unless I was too out of it (entirely possible) I don’t remember seeing a clock at the end of the race.  In the picture to the right, I’m not sure what that clock on the left means that says 7:49.

In summary:  As you can see my suggestions are very minor picky issues, which hopefully tells you this was a good race.  I think it was an excellent start to what hopefully will become a popular southeastern race.

For additional coverage by The State newspaper, click here.

My Experience: I get by with a little help from my friends

OK, now the part you’ve been waiting for. How was my race? There are 3 Chapters: Going Strong, Going For It, and Going South.

Chapter One: Going Strong

I arrived in plenty of time to get a good free parking space at the Colonial Center, a few blocks from the Convention Center. The 39 degree pre-sunrise temperature made for a chilly warm up, especially with the brisk wind whipping down Lincoln Street as I headed toward the Convention Center.  After trying to get loose by walking and some easy jogging, I hung out in the Center for a bit to stay warm.  About 7 am, I headed to the starting line. The race started right on time (7:15) with some pre-race 2001 and Sandstorm music to get us pumping.  Oh yeah, the young girl, 12?, who sang the national anthem was amazing.

As in my previous two marathons, the first half went really well. I didn’t notice too much wind as the race went on and the temperature warmed nicely into the fifties. The dreaded Trenholm  Road and Gervais Street climbs went very well, and I made the first loop in 1:55, right on target.  At this point, though, the race became pretty lonely as the half marathoners finished up.

Greg and Ben After the Race. Photo courtesy of Ben’s wife, Ally.

My first sign of trouble came at the Saluda Avenue hill as I climbed toward the mile 15 aid station. I didn’t remember it being very steep the first time around, but this time was a different story.  On the first loop, I had run this section with an old friend and former co-worker, Ben, who was running his first marathon.  That and early race adrenaline helped.  No Ben and no adrenaline now.  I told myself the easy part was officially over.

My friend Craig was working the mile 15 aid station and had my gels I needed for the rest of the way.  I had changed gel brands during this training cycle, so I was not taking the Gu’s provided by the race.  Carrying the four gels I had planned for the race was too bulky for my race belt, so Craig’s placement at this station worked out well.  This was right at my 2:15 mark, and I was due my third gel of the day. That and some water perked me up a bit, but by the 16 mile mark, my mind was starting to drift as I ran alone.

Chapter Two: Going For It
At this point I had not paid much attention to pace. I had been feeling good, but being alone now, my mind was starting to drift. This is when I made a decision that probably contributed immensely to the Going South part of this story.  The 3:45 pace group passed me, and I made the impulse decision to hop on board. New friends!

Before the race, I had no expectations of beating my personal best on this course.  I felt breaking 4 hours would be considered a victory, given the tough hills.  I certainly don’t usually recommend changing strategies during a race, but I felt good and felt I had sub-4:00 in the bag.  Why not, I thought.  Let’s go for it.

For the next 6 miles the excellent pacer lead us up and down hills, shouting out technique instructions that really helped keep me focused. This was actually a lot of fun.  If I could keep pace with this guy, a PR would be in the books on a brutal course. Unfortunately, Trenholm Road awaited.

Chapter Three: Going South
As we approached the 22 mile mark and the beginning of the long climb up Trenholm, only a couple of the 10 or so people at mile 16 remained with the pacer, and I was done.   The legs were protesting mightily!  I stopped to walk a bit and watched the pacer’s bright yellow shirt start fading into the distance. A run/walk strategy got me up Trenholm, but it seemed twice as long as the first time. I managed to average 10:12 per mile on this two mile stretch, a far cry from the 8:40 or so I had been logging.

Mile 24 brought a much needed break from the hills. A this point, I started keeping my eyes out for another friend, Bobby. He planned to meet me around here to help me finish up. He was doing the same thing for a faster finisher and would be coming back to meet me. I spotted him around mile 24 1/2.

At this point 3:45 was out of the question, but I held a bit of hope for 3:50. I don’t think I was too coherent as Bobby encouraged me and led the way home.  After the final steep hill up Gervais and another 10:00+ mile, 3:50 was no longer the target. Now, I just wanted to finish. When the finish line FINALLY came into view, I just let the downhill take me in. I wanted to pick up the pace but couldn’t.

At The Finish – Finally!

My final official time was 3:53:03, an 8:54 per mile pace and 134th place out of 545.

Final Thought

I don’t know if I’ll do the full marathon again.  My marathon training is usually limited to one a year, and I like to change venues each time.  However, I will probably make the half a regular part of my spring season.  If they figure out a way to flatten Trenholm Road, I might change my mind!

You can view the final results here.

For my additional ramblings on the Columbia Marathon, click here.


PS.  In reference to last week’s post, Final Marathon Details. If you are wondering what I chose for my target playlist Grand Finale song? It was Queen’s “Somebody to Love”.  I had it finishing about 3:52, so I just missed timing it right.  I had to go into overtime with Night Ranger’s “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”!

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Race Preview: Lexington Race Against Hunger 10K 2012

Feb 13, 2012 by

Race Preview: Lexington Race Against Hunger 10K 2012

I took a break from posting for various reasons.  I’ll try to do better.  On with the show…

On February 25, I’ll return to the scene of my first organized race, the Lexington Race Against Hunger.  In 2009, I entered because the timing and location were right for me.  Now, I enter because this race is one of the best races in the midlands of South Carolina.  Here’s why:

1.  Great cause.  Many, if not most, organized races benefit charities.  The beneficiaries of this event are local organizations whose missions are to feed the hungry.

2. Great Course. This is one tough 10K.  Mile 3 is especially tough with a trip up Main Street Lexington and then another tough stretch up South Church Street.   Here’s the elevation map:

LRAH Elevation Map

  3. Great race T-shirt.  The race shirt is a quality long sleeve cotton tee. At least it has been the last 3 years.  Hope they don’t make a liar out of me and change it up this year!  I have plenty of short sleeve t-shirts but never enough long sleeve.

4.  Great pizza.  The post race food table has pizza!  It may just be local delivery, but warm pizza tastes good after a run on a cold February morning!  Also, the post race awards ceremony is indoors!  This is usually a good thing since it will be late February!

Hope to see you there. For more information, click here.



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Cross Country: SCTCCCA Coaches Classic 2011

Sep 11, 2011 by

Cross Country: SCTCCCA Coaches Classic 2011

This past weekend, I attended what I think is annually the largest cross country meet in South Carolina.  Over 70 schools from across the state descend on the Sandhills Research Center in Columbia, SC.  The runners compete in 7 divisions, 4 varsity and 3 Junior Varsity.  For a break down of the finishes, you can click here.

Thundering Herd

This year the organizers broke the JV boys division into two divisions, 7th-9th grades and 10th-12th grades.  In previous years, this race had over 800 boys in it.  I had hoped to show you a video of the 800 person stampede of a start.  However, with the split, my video here is of the 7th-9th grade division and probably has 300+ in it.  I still think you get the idea.  That’s quite a start.


One thing I’ve noticed at cross country meets is the clever t-shirts the teams have come up with.  I took pictures at Coaches Classic to share:

This Sport would be great if it weren't for all the running.

Can you read this? Not for long.

No Walking. Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

You can never run a hill TOO HARD: You will collapse before hurtin it.

I do today what you won't, so I can do tomorrow what you can't.

Cross Country: The only sport where spectators run too!

No short cuts just short shorts


My sport is your sport's punishment

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Three Rivers Greenway Run

Jul 27, 2011 by

Three Rivers Greenway Run

Train Track over the Congaree River

Last weekend my son and I needed a place to run in the shade. We decided not to go to the trails and instead hit the Three Rivers Greenway path along the Congaree River in the West Columbia/Cayce area of the Midlands. The website lists the path as 3.2 miles from end to end. We parked at the Gervais St. bridge entrance (free parking!)  and ran south toward Cayce.  Here’s a link to the map. At the end of the official path,  we went a bit into the neighborhood there before turning around and heading back. We ran about 5.5 miles total.

This turned out to be a really good place to run. The path surface is a mix of concrete and boardwalks and was plenty wide enough to share with a few cyclists and dog walkers . The path was very shady, the views were scenic, and there were a few gentle slopes.  Hard to believe downtown Columbia was just across the river.

View of Downtown Columbia

This would be an excellent place for beginners.  If you are  looking for a longer run, the map shows you can cross the Gervais St. bridge and access Riverfront Park on the Columbia side of the Congaree.

As I mentioned before there was no fee to enter or park and the two restroom facilities were clean.  I snapped a few pictures along the way with my  phone. Hope you enjoy.

Gervais Street Bridge










Congaree River View


The View I get Running "With" My Son These Days










You can find out more about the park here.


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Myrtle Beach State Park Run

Jul 6, 2011 by

Myrtle Beach State Park Run

Myrtle Beach State Park Pier

One of my goals in starting this blog was to highlight various state parks, forests and other destinations in South Carolina as places to go run.  My first attempt at such a highlight is Myrtle Beach State Park.

Back in June, my family and I headed to Myrtle Beach for our summer vacation, as I highlighted in a previous post, Vacation Running.  While there, I planned to visit Myrtle Beach State Park to check out the trails for a run.  This summer, one of my main goals is to hit the shade more.  These trails gave me a chance to do just that.

I checked out the official park website to get an idea of what to expect.  The park is located  at the south end of Myrtle Beach, close to the airport. I saw the park had 2 trails,  the Yaupon Trail and the Sculptured Oak Trail, totaling about 1 mile. OK, not much length, but they sounded interesting.   The site provides this descriptions:  “The “Sculptured Oak Nature Trail” provides a rare opportunity to see one of the last stands of maritime forest on the northern coast of South Carolina”. So off I went.

Myrtle Beach State Park Entrance

Park Entrance

The admission to the park is listed on the site, but I was by myself, so it cost $5 to get in.  I drove right in and found a parking space near the pier entrance.  Neither the beach nor the facilities were crowded.  There were several shelters and picnic tables for use.  A few families appeared to be having parties at shelters.  I checked out the pier and the beach before I headed back up to the trail entrance.  Heading down the trail was like stepping into another world.

Trail Beginning

The run was not difficult at all.
Of course, it was pretty much flat, and the main obstacles were a few roots.  I was wearing my New Balance Minimus Trail shoes, but any shoe would do for this trail.  This would probably be a good trail for a beginner barefoot runner to try as well.



Myrtle Beach State Park Pond

Entrance to Sculptured Oak Trail


The paths were a little less than a mile total, so I went down to the pond first, but the lack rain had left it pretty much dried up.  I then went back down the main trail and hung a right down the Yaupon trail until it came out in the parking lot near the beach.



A little ways back up to the left was the entrance to the Scultpured Oak trail. I took it back to the trail beginning. Overall, on the paths, I covered a bit less than 2 miles.  I then decided to go for 3 total and ran on the road through the campground section of the park.

Plank Bridge on Trail

At the end of 3 miles, the temperatures were getting pretty warm, and I was about out of water in my handheld bottle, so I called it a day and headed back to the condo. Overall, I enjoyed the trip.  $5 well spent.  If you are visiting the Myrtle Beach area, take the family for a visit to the park.  There were additional  activities and a playground in the park to occupy them for a bit while you run.  Better yet, take them with you on the trail. POFIFOTO!

Beautiful Live Oak



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Xterra Harbison Half Marathon Preview

Jun 30, 2011 by

Since taking up running, I’ve rarely run off pavement. This summer, I decided to hit the trails as a way to get away from the direct sun. I have been doing a good bit of running around the trails that surround my neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a new event in my area – the Xterra Harbison Half Marathon and 5K, scheduled for July 10 at Harbison State Forest (HSF). My first thought was ‘Who in the world would run in a half marathon in Columbia, SC in July?’ Day time high temperatures regularly push 100 degrees most days in July and it is not a dry heat. I saw the race started at 7am, so the temperature at race start will only be about 72 degrees with the usual July early-morning humidity near 100%. By finish time, the temp should still be below 90. Hmmmm….maybe I would be one of these people who’d do such a thing. I had never having entered a trail race before. Before committing,  I wanted to check out the course.

Despite living in the area for 18 years, I had never ventured to Harbison State Forest. I knew mountain bikers used it. I knew the local cross country kids trained there some. I knew where it was but that was about it. I couldn’t find a course map on the race website, so I emailed the race organizers. Victoria Seahorn returned my email pretty quickly and said the course maps were now on the site. I wasn’t interested in the 5K, so I printed out the map for the Half. The organizers had taken the map from the Harbison State Forest official site and marked the route on it. Since this made a bit of the detail of the original map hard for me to see, I printed off the non-marked map as well and put them in a plastic notebook page protector. I then headed out to the site with the idea of checking out at least half of the course. I did 10+ miles that first day, and I went back the next weekend to cover the final 3 or so.

After checking it out, I decided to enter.

Here are my thoughts about the course and how I’m going to approach my first trail event.

Thought 1:Course is pretty tough.

The HSF consists of 9 trails of various terrain and difficulties. For this race, the organizers have created a course the utilizes parts of several of these trails. You will encounter compact sand, some clay, gravel, small wooden bridges, pine straw, some rocky spots, and a lots of roots. Roots seem to be the biggest hazard. On the days I ran, it was very dry, and mud or slick spots were not a factor. If there were to be significant rain for a few days before the race, then there could be some slick spots. This is unlikely for Columbia. I don’t know how trails are rated for technical difficulty, but most of it seemed mild, especially the Firebreak Trails. I ran in my New Balance Minimus Trails and did not have any problems. There is a 3 mile section called Spider Woman II that is rated the most difficult in the HSF guide. It is very winding and narrow. Looks like it starts between mile 4 and 5. It was tough. It has over 300 ft of climb during this stretch. According to my GPS watch, total elevation gain over the course is 4000+ feet. Columbia generally a pretty flat place, but this course has plenty of hills. I was disappointed that there is not a great view of the Broad River along the way. There is a part of the Spider Woman II with a view through the trees.

For some additional information on the  HSF and similar routed run, check out the information at the Harbison 50K site.

Thought 2: Heat may be as big a factor as the course

Heat does a number of most runner’s speed and endurance, and I’m no exception. In the cooler months, my road half-marathon pace is 8:15-8:30/mile. On the days I ran HSF, it was mid morning with temperatures in the 80’s and very humid. My pace on the trails was over 12:00/mile.  The 10 mile day was the toughest workout I’d had in a long time. I’ve done 4 road half marathons, all in the fall months and all under 80 degrees. This will be the toughest half I’ve encountered. I have a goal of 2:30. Maybe my goal should be just to take it easy and just finish.

Thought 3: Caution
If you have not done half or full marathons or have not been training for 10+ miles in the heat, be careful about entering the half. Stick to the 5K. Also, if you have not been doing trail running, be careful. Your muscles will get worked much different than the road. As a mentioned before, this is one heckuva workout.

Final Thought: Logistics
The entrance to HSF is easy enough to find. It is not far from I-26. Once you turn into the park, there is some immediate parking to the left. I don’t think you want to park there. If you follow the main road in about .6 miles, you hang a left to get to the start/finish area. I’m hoping they’ll allow parking in this area. I don’t want to add any more distance than I have to that day!

Come join me!


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