Thanks to Peter Asciutto -- the owner of Vac & Dash in Albemarle -- for contributing this report about Saturday's snowed-out Myrtle Beach Marathon:
The Myrtle Beach Marathon Expo was buzzing with excitement. Snow was on the way. The 5K race would start at 7 o'clock Friday night, with the Marathon and Half Marathon starting 12 hours later. According to the forecast, snow was guaranteed. There was no mention of ice, a runner's worst nightmare, as the temperature was to stay above freezing.
What a marketing coup for Myrtle Beach, I thought. Snow is so rare for the resort town. To have it fall the night before the marathon would make for a memorable race for the thousands of runners that traveled in for the 13.1- and 26.2-mile races. I was thinking of my friends, Angie Greenlee, John Bates and Sherri Swaringen being able to say they ran their first marathon in the virgin snow at Myrtle Beach.
I was a part of a group of 65 runners from Stanly County who made the 180-mile trip for the weekend races. Just after 6 p.m. Friday, we got word that the city was going to decide at 10 p.m. whether or not they would have the Saturday-morning races. You've gotta be kidding, I thought.
A group of us went to watch our buddies run the 5K, and 15 minutes before it started, the snow started dropping. It was great. By the time we walked over to the finish line at Coastal Carolina Stadium, the white stuff was falling heavy. The stadium lights enhanced the beauty of the winter evening. More than a dozen of us cheered on our 25 friends as they ran down the finishers' chute.
Leaving the stadium, we expected the race to go on. Just after 10 p.m., city officials cancelled the dreams of many. "Unbelievable," I said to my friend Rick Johnson. "It never ceases to amaze me how society changes plans based on what the weather might be, rather than what the weather actually is." We couldn't understand why they couldn't move the race to 8 or 9 so they could make a better decision in the morning. [The start originally had been set for 6:30 a.m.]
Using Facebook and cell phones, we got the word out that we would go to the start on Saturday morning and run anyway. When I stepped out the door just after sunrise, I knew city officials had screwed up. Sure, there were three inches of snow on the grass; however, there was not speck of snow on the roads. It never stuck to the warm surface. Conditions were perfect to run. Let me repeat, since Myrtle Beach Officials are stating otherwise: Conditions were perfect to run!
A dozen of us joined hundreds of other renegade runners participating in the "unofficial" version of the Myrtle Beach Marathon and Half Marathon. I did get some memories out of the experience.
My friend Emily Thompson stumbled and flattened out like a pancake on Ocean Boulevard. She left some DNA on the road, and has the battle scars to prove it. Road conditions were good, she just tripped. Around Mile 5, I thought I was going to have to find a place to write my name in the snow; fortunately, I came upon Porta-Potty.
Around Mile 7, Rick and I stopped and took pictures of two female runners from Greenville making angels in the snow. One of the ladies was four months pregnant. Around Mile 9, we saw another friend, Rita Phillips, driving by and flagged her down to bum five bucks to buy Gatorade at the Quickie Mart.
I did get a pleasant surprise when we finished, as race officials were handing out medals to those that ran that morning. It's the first Half Marathon medal I've gotten for running 11.8 miles.
Even though I had fun making the most of the cancellation, I still felt somewhat empty. I got the feeling that many runners felt the city didn't do what they could to deliver what they promised. They had no backup plan, so they jumped the gun on canceling the race.
Even after the fact, city officials didn't get it. They were all over the news saying that they were concerned about the safety of the runners. They even criticized us for hitting the streets, saying it was dangerous to do so with no support from the city. One of the official quotes was that if their decision prevented one person from getting injured, then cancelling the race was worth it.
This is in a city where they allow people to swim in the ocean where each year a few of them drown and others get bitten by sharks!
Now the City of Myrtle Beach has a marketing nightmare on their hands. It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year. My guess is that runners will be very hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars on travel and risk their investment of months of training going to a city that pulls away the red carpet when the going gets tough.
Peter Asciutto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.