A South Carolina Race in Memoriam

I ran a weekday half marathon last week. No, it wan't a holiday, so why was there a weekday race? The event was part of the Mainly Marathons race series. Mainly Marathons puts on 5-7 day race events in neighboring states, allowing runners to earn several new state finishes in a one-week event. This was the Appalachian Series, which offered races of varying distances (50K, marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K) in the following states: VA, WV, TN, NC, SC, GA and AL. Scot and I drove down for the Thursday race in Seneca, SC near Clemson University.

Medal and bibs for the race; all is explained below

There was a very special reason for running this race. Our friend and marathon buddy Scott would be doing the half marathon in honor of his daughter Christine, who was killed in June. I will link here to Scott's story. When Scot and Scott first met, they were embarking upon their individual quests to run marathons in all 50 states. From the beginning, Scott was running in honor of his friend, fallen Army CW2 Scott Coulter (yes, lots of Scotts in this post), and then for others as well (see the Running to Honor Heroes coin in the photo above). His daughter Christine had asked him why he didn't run a marathon for her. Christine's death was not combat related, but it was now the time to run a race for her. In addition, the race was on Scott's birthday. Several of us wanted to be there to support Scott and Emme, so we made the trip.

Just starting out: Scott, Kathy, Scot in the foreground; Wendy and others in the background, ahead on the course
Scott, Kathy and Scot displaying their bibs for Christine 
Later in the race: Scott, Scot and Kathy again, this time with Henry

It was the first time Scot or I had ever run a Mainly Marathons race, though we knew several people who had done them before and we had heard about the fun times and sense of community that this race series inspires. When you're running for several days at a time with the same people, you get to know them and form lasting friendships, we had heard. When the races are all set up in public parks with short multi-loop courses, you get to see those people continually throughout the day. I'd also heard that the Mainly Marathons aid station was awesome (and this one had Bettie as a volunteer!), with lots of real food. In fact, all of these things were true. We ran into many people we knew at the Seneca race, and we enjoyed our time with friends, especially Scott and Emme.

More marathoners we know: Parvaneh, Matthew, Jim, and unknown in the yellow singlet
The infamous Jim Simpson and Larry Macon; Jim just crossed a milestone of 1,600 lifetime marathons 
Goofy pic of me wearing my Half Fanatics Pacer shirt, which I'll never wear again as a pacer (the pace team was disbanded), but identifies me as a HF
Selfie with Kevin

Scott and Scot and I did the half marathon, while others did the full marathon. The core team of Scott, Kathy and Scot stuck together for the entire race. I was with them for the first loop, and then decided I needed to do some training miles at my own pace. The good news is that I saw everyone several times throughout the day as the loop was an out & back. Emme had brought the grandchildren and was spectating and watching them on this beautiful fall day, so we saw her twice on every loop as well. This was an emotional day, knowing why we were there. Although Scot and I had not met Christine, we had no less love for Scott and Emme. We were happy to be there for them, honoring Christine. We all wore bibs on our back with photos of Christine. I'm crying right now typing these words...

A bonus about this race series: no time limits. No one is left behind at Mainly Marathons races. And the last-place finishers get the coveted Caboose award. At our race, that went to Scott, as he and his crew completed the half marathon by walking only, and came in behind all the runners. My heart was touched to see Scott accept the Caboose for Christine.

Scott with the Caboose Award

Just a few more things I'll say about this race. The Seneca course was challenging, with several short, steep hills. My calves were talking to me the next day for sure. The medals for Mainly Marathons races are different. Whether you do the full or half marathon, each race has its own unique "starter medal." For each state you complete, you connect a medallion shaped like that state to the bottom of the starter medal. Each day, multi-day runners add a new state and their medal becomes so long that it approaches their knees. At the very bottom is a final, small medallion with the year. My medal, of course, was just the starter medal with the SC and 2016 medallions. It was kind of fun to put it together. I enjoyed the camaraderie and seeing friends that I don't often get to see. I would not be opposed to running another Mainly Marathons race, but not a whole series. Those are great for people  who are retired or with flexible work schedules, or for people who use their vacation days to check off new states. But it would only be practical for me if I did a series in states within driving distance, and if I planned it as a meet-up with good friends. Do check out the series if you haven't already.

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