Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unlucky XIII

I cannot imagine how many complaints about stopping Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII presented by Chick-Fil-A events after two of the four running events (the Ripley’s Family Fun Run and the Royal Bank of Canada 5k) finished Friday, with Saturday’s Bi-Lo Marathon and Dasani Half Marathon not taking place after a frantic squabble with the race organisers, the city of Myrtle Beach, and local ambulance services that started with a Friday meeting at 11 AM that attempted to push the 6:30 AM start to 7 AM. As the snow began taking flight in the state, some of us were stranded and made the decision not to show for the marathon.

Officials then tried to check weather conditions with a meeting that took place after the Friday events were held (about 6:30 PM), and the organisers announced they were planning to start the marathon at 7 AM. The city had enough, and the city took control of the decision afterwards. By 9:45 PM (the pre-race packet pickup had been extended), it was clear to officials (some had sent messages to area media, picked up on a social networking site) that the marathon, South Carolina’s largest, was not happening, and by 10:30 PM it was officially announced called off, eight hours before the scheduled start time, when many runners had been in bed awaiting the rescheduled 7 AM start that they had hoped would start melting the ice.

Many of us had trained for months for this moment, and some had aspirations of larger events. The anger poured into magazines and local media about the snow preparations, especially when Saturday came and with some ice on roads, they decided to protest with anger about stopping the event by trying to run the route. Others questioned why the race could not be run on Sunday, in a state with blue laws restricting sporting events on Sunday.

I must ask those who complained a few serious questions about their actions:

1. Police and Ambulance Services. In any major participation sporting event with over six thousand participants such as the two events, that requires over 200 policemen patrolling the course from 5 AM until 3 PM (with the south end (miles 1-11) from 5 AM until 11 AM, and the north end (miles 11-26) from 7 AM until 3 PM). In an interview, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon stated with many policemen coming from areas other than the direct city, their security was just as important as the runners. As was noted, police have to start shutting the streets for the course in question at least two hours before the start of the race, with the start area (Grissom Parkway at North 21st Street) closed for a minimum of four hours before the start. At the latest possible times to close the course to attempt a marathon (6 AM), the ice was still there that would have piled on the start line area. Furthermore, the finish area (BB&T Coastal Field) is a parking lot that is not a public road and would theoretically not be treated.

2. Black Ice. Myrtle Beach, being a resort town, rarely has snow, with this snow being the first in a decade. That means the city does not have snowplows or other snow-clearing equipment, with the only one available being Myrtle Beach International Airport, a former Air Force Base. Furthermore, if there is a runner down (which often happens during the race; in my five races (2005-09) I’ve heard ambulances blaring during at the 6, 14, 24, and 30 km marks on the old course), the ambulance needs to rush runners in worst-case scenarios to the hospital, which is located just past the 30km marker on the new course, which will now debut for Bi-Lo Marathon XIII February 19, 2011. And sadly, safety of ambulances is a serious matter to those of us who run. At the 2004 Cooper River Bridge Run 10k, a runner collapsed at the midpoint of the race on the Pearman Bridge (since imploded). The ambulance needed to be there to take the runner to the hospital. Furthermore, in marathons, unlike 10k events, they runners are not likely to use more than one line in a four-lane highway such as US 17, which takes up about 16km of the race, so only the furthest lane is reserved for the marathon. Combine that with narrower lanes in the shopping centre and the airport access, along with the two-lane and often windy Ocean Boulevard that forms 7km for the half-marathoners and 15km for the full marathoners, and the ice potential, what could happen if a motorist on US 17 makes one slip on a patch of ice and spins, hitting runners? And what would happen if a runner made one slip on black ice? They could call Billy Hardee to bring track-drying from the Myrtle Beach Speedway but that is designed for rain, not to melt ice, along with the Late Models to help dry the tarmac but those could have problems. Later, I learned from reports by newsmen for the local stations that there was ice on key roads in the area at the time the race would have started. That's a safety hazard.

3. Some runners (mostly out of state ones) thought they could try the event on Sunday. Unfortunately Section 53 of the South Carolina Code of Laws generally prohibits Sunday events unless special permits were conducted (the marathon’s permit was only for Saturday), and usually prohibits them before 1:30 PM. Furthermore, this marathon is a true steeplechase, as runners cross through twelve churches on this course. In 1978, the Cooper River Bridge Run started on a Sunday morning, and churches complained about runners going through Meeting and King Street (known for churches) just as Mass and worship services (both Catholic and Protestant churches were on the course) were taking place (remember South Carolina Catholic churches are of the Diocese of Charleston), so the race reverted to Saturday, where it has been held 31 consecutive years. Any attempt to run the Bi-Lo Marathon and Dasani Half-Marathon (eight churches) would draw the ire of churches on course. The Chairman of the Board of Directors noted that the marathon cannot be run on Sunday out of respect for the churches (many of those congregations’ members are volunteers on the course), a lesson learned from that 1978 Charleston race. Those races run on Sunday, I ask if you could try to run them on Monday.

I know you are disappointed in the run. However, the safety of all public safety officers, paramedics, course workers, volunteers, and all runners matter. You are not an army of one. Conducting a marathon takes a team of over 1,500 people, and this world does not revolve around you. A “diva” attitude is not tolerable in a team-oriented project. This weather situation was unique, and I hope you come back for Bi-Lo Marathon XIII and Dasani Half Marathon XIII, along with the Royal Bank of Canada 5k XIV with a more grateful attitude considering what it takes to be part of the organizing committee for such a race.

And oh, by the way: Al Gore, Barack Obama, and the rest of the Left’s Global Warming mantra Gaia Worshippers, where is the Global Warming? You stole car companies who didn’t obey your wants, you whipped on energy companies to the point we had sky-high energy rates last month, you don’t want us in four wheel-drive trucks and having 72-degree thermostats. If we followed you, we’d be freezing and some of us would be in hospitals or dead as our tiny cars with tyres that have no grip (“low rolling resistance”) slip and spin. Some of those motorists in these types of vehicles could slip and cause a crash that injures or kills runners if we tried to race. Can you imagine a safety vehicle for a marathon, guiding the runners on the new course, spinning out because of no grip on new tyres?


  1. I would love to know what Marathon you have run? Have you EVER committed to anything for a 6 month period?

    The city could have granted a Permit if they wanted to run the race on Sunday! I assume the city was happy with the money they had already collected form out of town guest

    We have more than 1600 Runners who have urged Runners World, Marathon.com and EVERY other publication to NEVER list Myrle Beach Marathon again.

  2. I usually commit to Myrtle Beach each August and prepare for the six months. The "Hot Summer Night" 5k is the beginning point of the Countdown to Myrtle Beach.

    I have run the Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII, and plan to do the Second Attempt at XIII next February. I've also run Kiawah Island in 2004.

    Winston Churchill warned, "Those who forget history are bound to repeat it." In South Carolina running, the 1978 Cooper River Bridge Run is the historical moment that all but prohibits Sunday races except for 5k's at 8 AM and anything past 1:30 PM. When they tried to race on Sunday morning at 10 AM, the local churches were outraged by the race being held as the congregations were in church. Most runners finished just as services began at 11. The organisers moved the race to Saturday afterwards.

    A Sunday race would be impossible on the course because of the churches that line the route. I ran the old route five times and saw nine of the 12 churches on the course.

    Here are the churches:

    Miles 1/12H/25: Sandy Grove Baptist. (You pass this church twice)
    Mile 2: First United Methodist, Agape Christian Fellowship, First Baptist.
    Mile 4: Kingsway Pentecoastal (new on course).
    Mile 6: Cathedral Baptist (new on course).
    Mile 18: Faith Presbyterian
    Mile 20: Ocean View Baptist, St. Phillip's Lutheran
    Mile 23: St. Andrew's Catholic, Trinity Episcopal
    Mile 24: First Presbyterian (new to course)

    Are you telling me doing a marathon in South Carolina is so important that you can ignore twelve congregations on a Sunday morning and a presenting sponsor (Chick-Fil-A) that does not do business on Sundays? Insulting a sponsor will never help you.


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