14040-038-029t.jpg14040-171-020t.jpgHave I mentioned that I’m participating in the Myrtle Beach Half-Marathon this weekend? This will be the 5th time; in the previous six years my brother Mike and I went the whole distance, 26.2 miles. A few years ago because of time constraints and our aging knees, we decided that 13.1 miles was sufficient. He runs, and I walk and jog a little. Last year our brother Dave and one of his sons joined us for the event (see above photo), but this year he won’t be making the trip to SC on marathon weekend. My son-in-law Rich, however, is joining us, and he will be running the entire distance. He and my brother have the “no pain, no gain” philosophy whereas I like to savor the sights, sounds, and yes even the little aches and pains. Is pushing oneself to the max a guy thing? Seems to be the case in my family.

About the sights and sounds, we start out under the stars and moon at the intersection near Broadway and Pelican Ball Park, and before the gun is fired we listen to the National Anthem. It’s amazing how the chatter and small talk cease as soon as the anthem comes over the loud speaker.  Then “Bang,” the gun fires and we’re off. It’s usually tough going for me at the beginning since everyone is running and not walking, and walkers will be either run over or left behind.

The best part (even better than crossing the finish line) is crossing King’s Hwy and catching the first glimpse of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Talk about a peak experience! No matter how many times I see the ocean, that first peep is always a huge thrill. After getting to Ocean Boulevard, we turn right and continue our trek for maybe five or six miles, and all along the way, there are people on both sides of the road to cheer and encourage us. I don’t think they realize just how much the participants appreciate that support. Plus, this is the best-marked race I’ve ever participated in, and there are mile markers with “times” at every mile. Volunteers providing water and sports drinks are out in abundance and the Red Cross is stationed at various posts along the route and at the end.

As we cruise along the boulevard, there are hotels, restaurants, and fun looking shops all along the way, a virtual feast for the eyes. Oh and of course, there’s the Atlantic on the left in case one needs a little psyching up. Finally, the miles on the boulevard end and we’re back on King’s Hwy along with the tourists, places of business, pancake houses, and encouraging crowds. At this point we’re probably ten miles into the race (?), and I’m feeling pretty tired. I know, however, that the end is just beyond the church, the elementary school, Mr. Joe White Avenue….and then the finish at the ball park.

Before closing this, I feel that I must mention the motley crew that I’ll be a part of. Old, young, short, tall, chubby, thin, male, female, and every race and ethnic background will be my companions along the way. Not only do people come from different parts of the United States, but they also descend on the coastal city from other countries. One year I met a woman whose goal was to run a marathon on all continents. She was 67 and had just gotten started in the sport. I LOVE watching the people I walk/jog with and behind and have struck up so many conversations with dozens and dozens of fascinating folks. I know this year will be no exception.

I’m looking forward to Saturday morning by the sea. Wish you could be there with me and the other thousands who’ll be pounding the streets of Myrtle Beach.