- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
- Event Website
Last weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Hilton Head, South Carolina to run in the Hilton Head Marathon with Team BibRave! Hilton Head was set to be my 20th state in my 50 marathons in 50 states journey, so it was sure to be a super special trip. This was going to be a quick 36 hour trip for me, so I tried to pack in as much as I could during my time in SC. I was traveling solo, but luckily I was able to meet up with my sister and two fellow BibRave Pros - Andy and KB - while I was there!
I arrived on Friday afternoon around 2pm. As soon as I landed I picked up my rental car and headed over to the Palmetto Running Company where race packet pick up was taking place. Because this was a smaller race, it didn't host an expo or anything like that, so they hosted packet pick up at a local running store instead. It was actually quite a nice change of pace from my normal race experiences! I tend to run really large city races which basically require you to go to an expo to get your gear. I forgot what it's like to have a simple place to pick up your bib instead of having to build in a trip to an expo! Finding the store was really easy - about a 10 minute drive from the airport - and all I had to do was present my registration to the volunteer to pick up my packet! I was given bib #38 (which really clued me in as to how small the race would be lol) as well as an awesome puffer jacket as part of my race packet. Definitely one of the cooler pieces of participant race clothing I've gotten with a race registration!
After picking up my packet and dropping off everything at my AirBnB, I was able to meet with my sister, Andy, and KB at a local Italian restaurant for dinner called Pomodori (shout out to KB for arranging!). All of us were traveling solo so it was so nice to make arrangements to meet up and spend some time together. The food and company was so fantastic and a great way to start off the trip!
I gave myself an early bed time as I was super duper exhausted from the travel, but not before laying out my traditional flat runner! I love being able to rock BibRave orange for races and this was my first BibRave race of 2022 which made things super exciting! We were looking at a chilly morning (mid-40s), but the temperatures were set to rise to the mid-high 60s throughout the race so I wanted to dress cool and comfortably. It was looking like perfect racing weather so I was looking forward to it!
I woke up around 5:15ish the next morning so I could start eating breakfast and getting ready for the race. I always like to give myself some extra time to get ready in the morning so I'm not feeling rushed and adding more stress to an already nerve wracking day. It doesn't matter how many times I've done it before - I'm always nervous the morning of a marathon! After eating, getting dressed, and giving Brett a call for a little pep talk, I was out the door and on the way over to the start line.
I linked up with Andy and KB again and we all headed to the start line together. It was so great to have folks there with me to chat with and to help calm the pre-race jitters! Hanging out with these two was definitely the highlight of the trip. I always love hanging with fellow BRPs!
After a quick warm up and bathroom break, it was time to line up for the start! Standing at the start line made me realize just how small this field of runners was. I did not find out until later but this marathon had less than 100 runners participating. I'm used to running marathons that have a couple hundred, if not a couple thousand participants, so this was definitely a change of pace for me. I was nervous that I was going to spend a lot of this race alone and I really had to mentally prepare myself for that. I tried to approach this more like a long training run than a race - I do those by myself all the time! 😂 8am rolled around and before we knew it we were off!
This course is double-looped, which to be honest is probably my least favorite course design. It's one of the most mentally challenging designs because not only do you have to do the same course twice, but you also have to run right by the finish line and keep going while all the half marathoners get to stop 😂 Not fun! In addition to the double-looped course, there was quite a lot of highway running which was a bit disappointing. Miles 3-6, 9-12, 14-17, 21-22.5, and 23.5-25 was practically ALL highway. We did have a bridge that went over this really beautiful inlet (which full marathoners got the pleasure of hiking up 4 times 😂) but aside from that one view there was a lot of time spent on a lonely highway. That was probably my least favorite part of this entire experience, unfortunately.
Luckily, I really enjoyed the rest of the course which brought us through some really beautiful park sections! As predicted I didn't spend a whole lot of time around other runners because the field was so small which I thought was going to be a really big obstacle for my mental game, but it actually felt quite peaceful. There were so many really quiet sections of the course which I thought I was not going to enjoy, but it was actually a very welcome change to the craziness of the big city marathons I tend to run.
In addition to having some nice, quiet miles, ALL of the volunteers on the course from race staff, to police detail, to every one at the water stop, were SO friendly. I'm sure it wasn't the most exciting event to volunteer for considering how few runners there are, and I'm sure it was especially boring for the folks who were volunteering in the later miles where I'm sure large chunks of time went by between each runner. However, every single person I encountered on the course had a huge smile on their face and cheered me on. I definitely appreciate everyone that volunteered that day!
As far as my race went, I had a FANTASTIC day of running! I was feeling nervous about how I would perform (as I always do) because to be honest, running had definitely taken a back seat once the semester got started. I was not very consistent at all with my work outs just because of how stressful work has become in the last few months. However, I felt fantastic through almost every mile of that race which I was totally surprised by! I think the weather conditions had a lot to do with how I was feeling. It was honestly a perfect day for running - mid-60s and overcast with low humidity. It felt so fantastic to be out there and cruising through the miles!
This race definitely presented an interesting mental challenge with the way the course was laid out, so my main focus of the day was to stay calm and collected which really played to my benefit in the later miles. I remember thinking how great I felt at mile 18 and 19 and I don't think I've honestly been able to say I felt "great" at that point of any marathon! It really wasn't until mile 24.5 that I felt truly gassed out and ready to be done. I think it's incredible that I was able to feel so great for such a long period of time, and it's encouraging to know that I can feel that way during a marathon! It just makes me want to work harder in training just to see how much further I can go!
My absolute favorite part of this race was the finish line. Not because I was excited to be done (which believe me, I was), but because of how hyped the finish line volunteers were for every single finisher that came through the chute and across the finish line! There were large gaps between each finisher, which allowed the volunteers at the end to really cheer hard for each runner who finished and make each runner feel special. I know I certainly did! I crossed the finish line, they handed me my medal, a water, and a shot of Nuun, and made me feel so proud of my accomplishment. 🥰
Again, I just missed a sub-5. Similarly to my experience at Rock n' Roll Arizona, it was definitely in the back of my mind that I could shoot for a sub-5, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high during the run and ultimately disappoint myself if I didn't accomplish that time goal. I had gone into the race with the sole goal to finish so I did my best to stay focused on that. I know that I'll get sub-5 again, and very likely I'll get sub-5 again SOON. I just gotta do all the right things to get there. For now, I'm just pumped that I finished STATE #20 BABY!!! 40% done!!!
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The volunteers! Everyone was so stinkin' friendly and made me feel so supported on the course. I so appreciated every single person who spent their Saturday supporting me and the other runners working to accomplish their goal of finishing!
LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE HILTON HEAD MARATHON: The course design. I'm not personally a fan of the double-loop, and I really wish we were able to get some more ocean views and less highway miles on the run. We were on an island, after all! I understand it's tricky to block off 26 miles of traffic though, so even though it happened to be my least favorite part of this race, I know the organizers did the best they could to come up with an interesting and scenic route for us. It's definitely not a deal breaker in my opinion!
If you're looking for a smaller race in a scenic location, or looking to escape the harshness of winter in your area for a racecation, the Hilton Head Marathon might be just the race for you! I honestly think that the volunteers really made this experience special for the runners. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging and kept me in great spirits through all 26.2 miles. If you decide to sign up for this race, you will absolutely feel supported the entire way through. Definitely give it a go!