We returned to Myrtle Beach for our second go at this race, eager to see if it would be as awesome as we remembered it… and it was. Myrtle Beach is a fun vacation destination for those that live only an hour or so away like we do, and probably even more so for people who travel from afar. If the boardwalk beaches of New Jersey and the white sand beaches of Kiawah Island had a baby, it would be Myrtle Beach. Come to run the race and stay to enjoy all that Myrtle Beach has to offer.
The race expo was held at Crabtree Memorial Gymnasium in the area of Myrtle Beach known as Market Common, a planned community. The expo was modest in size, making for a quick experience. With that being said, runners can extend their Market Common experience thanks to all the area has to offer. From the gymnasium one can walk to Market Commons' stores, restaurants, soccer fields, playgrounds, and more.
Upon arrival at the expo, runners were directed to the back of the gym were they picked up their race bibs and shirts. Be aware, all runners must pick up their packets on the Friday or Saturday before the race. Any runner who cannot attend packet pickup can have someone pick up for him by filling out a waiver and making a copy of his photo ID. For those who order a women’s t-shirt, be warned. This year’s shirt ran small, and trades could not be made until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
As usual there was a running store vendor selling gels, armbands, clothes, and the other typical running wares. We also enjoyed browsing the piles of Hippie Runner headbands which were being sold for the bargain price of $5 each.
In our opinion, there are only two places to stay for a point-to-point half marathon: the start or the finish. This year, we opted to stay at the Coastal Grand Hilton Garden Inn, which was within spitting distance of the starting line. We loved the fact that the hotel provided runners with a bagged breakfast and a warm place to hang out prior to the start. In addition, the mall starting location ensured that no one would struggle to find parking.
In previous years we opted to stay at the race finish, which allowed us to change into warm, dry clothes and grab some cash to buy lunch. The Aqua Beach Inn and the Holiday Inn (not the major chain) are the two hotels closest, however there are tons of beach hotels within a half mile of the finish line. Be aware of what a modestly priced beach hotel will get you: likely a clean, somewhat outdated room in a hotel that caters to the transient beach crowd that populates Myrtle Beach.
The race’s 7 o’clock start put us in prime time for brunch-eating. Locals recommended the Pier House restaurant, located only a half mile from the finish, and Croissants, located about 3 miles from the finish. Pier House offered up the most fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean, modest prices on brunch food, and a quality meal that rivaled brunch in Charleston (a true foodie city).
Because the race finishes in the center of Myrtle Beach right on Ocean Boulevard, there are tons of breakfast and seafood buffet options.
For those staying at the Hilton Garden Inn near the start, the Coastal Grand Mall also has dozens of dining options. Guests can practically sleepwalk from their hotel rooms to the Sticky Fingers barbecue right across the street. Anyone feeling more motivated can trek the half mile to Texas Roadhouse, Abuelo’s, or Red Robin.
The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon boasts of a course that is flat and fast with a mere seven turns. While we didn’t count the turns, we don’t doubt the truth of that claim. From the mall, runners race up Robert M Grissom Parkway, which was closed on one side for runners and still had a sidewalk to make viewing the race easy for spectators. Approximately halfway through the race, runners made two turns, heading east on 62nd Ave then south on Ocean Blvd. towards the finish line. The final two miles actually require runners to pass the finish line, run about a mile, and turn onto the boardwalk, allowing for a finish that parallels the Atlantic Ocean.
Shuttles were available at the finish to take runners back to their cars at the Coastal Grand Mall.
After crossing the finish line, runners were draped with their finisher medals, then corralled down a chute that lead them past bagels, bananas, Kashi bars, water, apples, dried cherries, and Popcorners Carnival Kettle chips. In addition to reminding runners of their race day accomplishment, the surfboard finisher medal also serves as a bottle opener (that will stick to your fridge thanks to the magnet on the back).
A sparsely populated beer garden allowed runners with a photo ID or bracelet (obtained at the previous day’s expo) to guzzle two beers while enjoying views of the Atlantic Ocean. A band entertained runners with music until the awards ceremony where overall and age group awards were given out.
Running the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon will provide you with a getaway weekend, a flat, fast course, and a fun and scenic post-race atmosphere. This is the kind of race where your family can tag along and have plenty to entertain them while you attempt to PR on a fast course.
Tips for Running a Successful Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon
- Be prepared for just about any temperature. This weekend in South Carolina is often the first cooler weekend of the season, so the race start could be chilly. With that being said, it’s South Carolina, so it could be warm!
- If you don’t show your ID at the race expo, you won't receive a bracelet allowing you entry into the post-race beer garden. Sans bracelet, you can still enter with a photo ID. Beer drinkers, make sure you have at least one of these things.
- Bring some cash for the finish line. You’ll finish up on the boardwalk where there are many things you’ll be tempted to purchase: sushi, flip flops, shot glasses, souvenir t-shirts, a soda, Italian ice… We’ve run this race twice and both times lamented our lack of cash.