Weather can make or break many outdoor events, but usually it’s due to forecasts and the weather on the day of an event that matter most.
For this weekend’s sixth annual Charleston Marathon events, last year’s weather seems to be having a larger effect, so far, than this Saturday’s.
Registration numbers for the event, which includes a “kids marathon,” marathon, half-marathon, 5K and bike rides have flattened out this year. Organizers say last year’s strong, cold headwinds made a lasting impression on many runners, particularly the marathoners.
Race director Liz Miello Alford says last year’s weather has hurt marathon registration numbers, while the other event sign-ups are on par with last year’s. As of Monday, 2,000 have registered for the marathon, 2,800 for the half, 690 in the 5K and 150 for the bike rides.
Meanwhile, Saturday morning’s forecast (as of the writing of this column) calls for sunshine, “light and variable winds” and temperatures starting in the low 40s, climbing to the mid-60s.
Some locals also might contend that the course, which is mostly in North Charleston, remains the reason that the event is a slow grower.
Charleston Marathon officials tried to add more miles in downtown Charleston since last year’s race by asking the city’s special events committee to approve an out-and-back on the James Island connector for the marathon. The committee declined that request, but did approve increasing the total registration cap for those in the marathon and half from 5,000 to 8,000.
Event co-founder Howie Schomer says adding the James Island connector would have allowed organizers to cut out a relatively desolate mid-section of the marathon that includes part of an out-and-back to the Cooper River Marina in North Charleston.
Alford says the city’s decision was a “huge disappointment” for her, especially in light of the event’s charitable and economic contributions to the greater Charleston community.
The event donated $100,000 to the R. Keith and Deborah C. Summey Youth Endowment for the Arts, a local nonprofit that supports fine arts programming in Charleston County schools, from last year’s race. In all, the charity has received $280,000 from the event.
The event also draws tourists to Charleston hotels, restaurants and other attractions at one of its slowest times of year. This year’s race has runners coming from 45 different states and seven countries, including Australia.
Alford says race organizers will continue to ask the city for use of the James Island connector in coming years.
Stella Fruit, a representative on the city’s committee, says shutting down the connector “changes the entire scope of the run and has a much larger impact on the city.
“It adds length, which includes cutting off the entire western side of the peninsula and the Crosstown. Then, of course, this adds to the length of time that roads are closed and we agreed that businesses would be able to open on time, as well as residents be able to access their neighborhoods,” says Fruit.
The race also promotes physical fitness via its Youth Marathon, held on the Friday before the event. The event is a modified marathon, starting about a month before the event, in which youngsters run or walk 25 miles prior to the marathon. On the Friday before the marathon, the kids gather to run the final 1.2 miles at Burke High School in Charleston.
Volunteer organizer Mike Campbell says about 550 students will be running on Friday.
Campbell, too, feels frustration that more schools don’t take advantage of the free program and thinks the solution is finding someone at different school who will serve as “champions” for the effort.
“We’d love to grow this event,” says Campbell.
The marathon and half starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at Burke High School and finishes at North Charleston High School. The 5K will start at 8 a.m. Saturday at North Charleston High. Bike rides will be Sunday at Whitesides Elementary School in Mount Pleasant.
Late fees are $100 for the marathon, $80 for the half, $30 for the 5K and $40-$45 for the bike rides. Late registration and packet pick-up will be 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday at Burke and starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
Registration for the popular Pedal 4 Pattison’s Spinning Marathon, which will be held March 8, opens to the public Wednesday.
The event, which raised $273,260 for special needs children of Pattison’s Academy last year and more than $1 million in the past seven years, draws about 200 riders every year but space is limited. The event usually reaches its registration cap in a day.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.