The Marathon That Imploded by Dave McCorquodale
Some of you may already by aware that after 6,600 people traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to run a marathon or half-marathon this past Saturday, the city management cancelled the races. Why? Because it was snowing the night before, the first time it had snowed in 12 years in Myrtle Beach.
While this unusual weather certainly called for caution or, perhaps, postponement for a couple of hours to see if the conditions improved, such was not to be. The race was called at 10 p.m. the night before as we were settling in and watching the Olympics. So say that I was stunned is an understatement. I think I remained in that condition for two days. Now the anger is building.
The city manager said it was his decision, but that he did it because the race directors were concerned about not having their medical “volunteers” if the race went off later. Aren’t the medical staff PAID for being there? Plus, the roads stay open to traffic and they were concerned about runners being on the same roads with vehicles in icy conditions.
This event has grown in ten years from about a thousand to over 6,600 this year and that doesn’t include the accompanying bike races which went off on Sunday outside of Myrtle Beach. It’s bordering on being a big time event. I say, with that growth, comes the responsibility to have contingency plans for the odd year when there is “bad” weather. Maybe some streets should be dedicated to just runners with no vehicles. Maybe the course route needs to be adjusted to less traveled streets. The fact of the matter was that by 9:00 A.M. the roads were free of slush or the few patches of black ice. See the picture attachment below, taken by Scott Hodukavich, to see what conditions were like at 11:00 A.M.
The fact is that by 10:30 P.M. all the aid stations were being torn down, apparently so that the race directorship could say it had disavowed itself of supporting anyone who came out and ran unofficially and, thereby, avoid any liability. Despite this, hundreds of people DID run the course. Thousands went out and ran something just to get a run in. I did 13 miles and my companions did 18 and 20 miles on the very roads the course would have been going through.
Later that day we went to the House of the Blues where the “post-race” party, which wasn’t cancelled, was being held. Absurdly, as we were walking in the door, there was a table where one could pick up a marathon medal. Sorry, I don’t accept medals for doing my long runs.
It is said that once something acquires bad publicity, it becomes near impossible to shake it. I know that I will always have a negative opinion of Myrtle Beach now. The race organization is mulling over what to do. Complete refunds aren’t an option. But it’s obvious to me it should offer free entry in one of its future events. I’d even be willing to stipulate that if I went, I wouldn’t take all the swag. They could save their money on that. Because right now, I’ve got a tech shirt, a cap, an aluminum bottle and a bag – all associated with the Race That Wasn’t. I won’t wear or use this stuff. I may have paid for it, but I didn’t earn it.