Seven appears to a lucky number, at least in terms of the weather forecast for this weekend’s Charleston Marathon events.
Usually cold and windy, the forecasts for Friday’s youth marathon, Saturday’s marathon, half marathon and 5K and Sunday’s bike ride appears moderately cool with no rain and only a slight breeze.
It’s a far cry from last Saturday’s deep freeze.
Race director Liz Miello Alford hopes the ideal running weather will mean a bump in walk-up registrations for the seventh running of the 5K and half marathon. The event has virtually plateaued since hitting participation records in 2014.
That year (which was cold and windy) drew 2,903 finishers in the half, 1,194 in the full and 797 in the 5K. But the events numbers have followed a national trend and dipped the past two years. Last year attracted 2,682 in the half, 916 in the full and 855 in the 5K (the latter was a record.)
On Wednesday, Alford said registrations were at 1,222 for the full, 2,827 for the half, 675 for the 5K, and 142 for the bike ride. (Finisher numbers tend to be 80-85 percent of registrations.)
That relative stagnation is one of four factors prompting Alford and board members to go back to Charleston special events officials for course changes in 2018.
Other factors include the logistical complications of a point-to-point course, ongoing complaints that more of the race is held in North Charleston than Charleston and the inability to access the former Charleston Navy Base due to construction next year.
Alford said she and board members would prefer the course start and end in the same place – Riley Park – and include more of Charleston.
“It’s time for the city to embrace this event,” said Alford, noting that marathon officials have always done what’s asked of them and that the event raises money for school arts programs.
Since 2011, the Charleston Marathon has raised a total of $470,000 for those programs, via the Youth Endowment for the Arts. This year, funds will go to a similar arts enrichment nonprofit, Engaging Creative Minds.
“If we want to make more money for the kids, we need a better race course,” said Alford, adding that the economic impact of the races, held during a relative lull in visitation to Charleston, has been calculated at $8 million.
New expo location
One change is already in the works this year.
The Charleston Marathon Expo and Youth Marathon event will be held at the Charleston Area Convention Center (not Burke High School) on Friday. The expo will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The 1.2-mile Youth Marathon will be at 3:30 p.m.
Alford said the event needed more room for the expo and marathon and also didn’t want to get in the way of a varsity basketball game set for Friday night at Burke.
The marathon and half-marathon start at 8 a.m. Saturday at Riley Park and finished at North Charleston High. The 5K begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at North Charleston High. The bike rides start at 8 a.m. at Burke High School.
The fees, when registering in-person on Friday and before the races on Saturday, are $100-$110 for the marathon, $80-$90 for the half, and $30-$35 for the 5K. The fees for the bike ride is $35-$40.
New bike series
The marathon isn't the only event planned for the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Affordabike’s inaugural Charleston Off Road Bike Series, aka CORBS, is a four-part series catering to different disciplines of off-road cycling. Saturday’s race will feature a Short Track Mountain Bike Race at the north trail of Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston.
Subsequent races will be a Mountain Bike Time Trial on Jan. 21, a Cyclocross Race on Feb. 4 and an Endurance Mountain Bike Race on Feb. 18. All three will be held at Marrington Plantation in Goose Creek.
Daniel Russell-Einhorn, owner of Affordabike, started the race series to bring off-road racing to Charleston “in an organized way that hopefully carries on year after year.”
“Despite the lack of terrain, the mountain bike scene (in the Charleston area) is surprisingly strong. It's not uncommon for mountain bikers from Charleston to travel to a mountain bike race out of state and get on the podium,” Einhorn said.
“This just blows my mind given what we have to work with. One of the goals of this series is to get people who we ride with locally to give mountain bike racing a chance, who otherwise would not have traveled one to three hours to do a similar event.”
The fee is $20 per race or $60 for the entire four-race series.