Marathon Ready for 18th Birthday Bash

By Marathon Ready for 18th Birthday Bash

If the 18th Annual Myrtle Beach Marathon were a person, it would be eligible to vote, join the military, go off to college or move out on its own. They grow up so fast.

But fortunately for the thousands of runners who flock to Myrtle Beach every winter, the Feb. 14 marathon isn't going anywhere – except, of course, for the 26.2-mile course through the streets of Myrtle Beach. And while 18 years and 26.2 miles might seem like a long time and distance, the race's humble beginnings seems like yesterday to organizers.

Rewind a couple of decades when a group of five local runners formed a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Team in Training” program and made trips to races in other cities. The group quickly realized that Myrtle Beach would be the ideal place to host a race, and they started planning the inaugural Myrtle Beach Marathon, which began in 1998.

The local business community and corporate sponsors quickly joined in to support of the marathon's efforts to attract more visitors to Myrtle Beach during the offseason. And a local company that shares that same goal of attracting guests to the Grand Strand,, has come on board as the title sponsor in the race's growing phase.

“We couldn't be more pleased in continuing our relationship with as our official title sponsor,” said race president Shaun Walsh. “This is a perfect fit for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in our 18th year. The team shares our passion for this event and with their help we can expand our community of runners and visitors to our great city.”

Today, more than 5,000 runners and their loved ones invade the Grand Strand from all over the US and even some foreign countries. The numbers grow as word spreads about the scenic and flat oceanfront course, the ideal conditions, the abundant entertainment, dining and shopping options available and the hospitality of the city and race staff.

As the numbers have increased, so have the available options for runners, walkers and wheel-chair racers. The half-marathon was formed for runners who havenít quite worked their way up to the full marathon but are ready to tackle the 13.1-mile course. The Family Fun Run was added on Friday to give kids and casual runners and walkers a chance to get into the action.

Community involvement has also been overwhelming, according to Walsh, as groups volunteer to man water and first aid stations, monitor the course, hand out packets to participants and help runners find their way around town. The marathon has been a boon to local businesses, including hotels, restaurants and shops that experience increased traffic throughout the weekend.

More importantly, the Myrtle Beach Marathon has raised more than $3 million for local charities since its inception, including the South Carolina chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Coastal South Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Horry County Schools. Not bad for a teenager.

Coastal closes out the calendar year with a trio of road games, starting Thursday at Ole Miss. The Chants then travel to Central Arkansas for a Sunday matinee before taking a break for the holiday then returning to open conference play at High Point on New Yearís Eve.