Race: Charleston Marathon

Charleston Marathon Race Report
Photo Credit: Clarke Babcock

Runner: Coach Erin Hunt

Race Date: 01/11/2020

Location: Charleston, SC

Results: 3:43

Strava Activity Link:

https://www.strava.com/activities/3003131898

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The course is pancake flat. My Strava data says I gained 200ft, the marathon elevation profile says 500ft. My watch said I climbed three flights of stairs at the end of the day. You run over one small bridge and that’s it. For those of you who don’t like hills, you’re safe in Charleston!
  2. Everything was well marked, and any spot that may have been confusing was supported by great volunteers. The police officers keeping traffic off the course did a fabulous job as well. I saw a couple of cars trying to drive onto the blocked roads, and the woman patrolling that section didn’t let them come anywhere near the course.
  3. The start line is in a great spot. There are a lot of historic houses on Airbnb reasonably priced and within a mile of the start line. We were able to do a warm up and run right to it. If you did drive, it was at a school with plenty of parking.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

This race is pretty boring. There are long sections in industrial areas, and there isn’t much to look at or any crowd support. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I wasn’t having the best race and could have used a few more high fives.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

I got stopped by a train during this race in 2019. I thought they’d take out the train track crossings in 2020, but they didn’t. I thankfully didn’t get stopped again, but unless they’ve found a way to prohibit train traffic on marathon day, this will probably continue to happen.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I had my best training block to date leading up to this race. I felt fit and capable of hitting my goal lining up at the start line. The first half of the race was on pace and felt easy. My stomach went south and I slowed things down after that. Despite not hitting my goal, I controlled the things I could and finished excited to gear up for my next race.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The weather this time of year has proven to be unpredictable. This race is historically colder, but was 74 and humid this year. Be ready for either scenario! Also, remember that January races are hard. Plan accordingly. A pretty big number of people registered but didn’t start. This race is really tempting if your fall marathon didn’t go as planned. Remember how quickly the holidays hit, and before you know it it’ll be race day.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I learned how to navigate digestive issues. I learned that stopping to use the bathroom doesn’t need to derail your entire race. Once I saw the 30 seconds added to my time from my stop, I panicked and didn’t think I could reach my goal anymore. I could have, using some positive self talk and a deep breath or two. I’ll practice keeping calm for my next race.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

You might hit some pretty strong headwinds at times. You’ll turn out of them in a couple of miles, so it isn’t anything to worry about. This race is also point to point. Parking at the finish line isn’t super close, so be ready to walk. There is a shuttle that takes people back to the start if you need it.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Not really. You spend a couple of miles in historic downtown, but the rest of the race is in an industrial part of town. You do some out and back sections in neighborhoods, so it’s fun to see fellow runners during that part.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, it’s very flat compared to where I do my training. The weather can make it difficult though depending on the year.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

It was very organized. I had no complaints about any logistics from expo day through race day. Charleston also does a great job of communicating with runners via email leading up to the race. They even post a video of you crossing the finish line next to your race result online.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Not really. For both men and women there were 10+ minute gaps between first and second place. The top male came in at 2:26:30, with second place at 2:39:03. First place woman ran 2:53:47, with second place running a 3:03:02.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Nothing fancy here! This race is easy to get into and not many people are traveling in January. I highly suggest taking the Airbnb route though. I’m not from the south and always find it really interesting to stay in the old, restored homes downtown.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Water and Gatorade were at every stop. I didn’t see much (if any) nutrition, so pack your own. I heard other people say the aid stations were sightly off from where they were supposed to be. I didn’t pay much attention to that ahead of the race, and I felt like I had an adequate amount of aid available.

Weather and typical race conditions

Usually colder, but it was hot and humid this year.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Typical marathon supplies will get you though!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

My husband cheered me on from the Fleet Feet Charleston aid station at mile 2.2, then met up with me again around mile 14. He said the road closures made it hard to get access anywhere else.

How’s the Swag?

Great! They gave out blankets this year, my favorite race day swag. The shirt has been a long sleeve tech shirt for the past two years, and the medals are the sparkliest I’ve seen.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I’d give this race a 6/10. Fun town, flat course, and easy to navigate. I wouldn’t recommend it to first time marathoners looking for that big city, crowd supported, big expo experience. For the seasoned runner who is looking for a race early in the year, this is one to consider.

Erin Hunt is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Erin, check out her coaching page.

Charleston Marathon Race Report
Photo Credit: Clarke Babcock