When local runner Chris Bailey became the first of 3,849 runners in the 39th Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon and Half Marathon to cross the finish line on Saturday, he was choked up with emotion.
It was not because it was an unusual accomplishment. The 27-year-old, who works at the College of Charleston Honors College and as running coach for Without Limits, has won other local half marathons of similar size and races.
And his time of one hour, 11 minutes and 19 seconds isn’t a personal best, either.
Bailey broke up because his thoughts immediately turned to another Kiawah Island champion, long-time local runner Brian Johnson, who won Kiawah marathon titles in 1999 and 2010. This weekend, when Johnson is usually competing at Kiawah, the 41-year-old father of two young sons started his first treatment for acute myeloid leukemia at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Johnson is a leader in the local running community, as runner, coach, and booster. He is a teacher at the Charleston County School of the Arts and is the running coach at the Academic Magnet High School.
Bailey described Johnson as being “like a second father for me.”
“I felt him with me today,” said Bailey of Johnson, adding that those thoughts helped Bailey during the toughest parts of the race. “I didn’t want to put pressure on myself, like I had to do it (win the race) for him, but I knew I wasn’t going to take it easy out there.”
Other top finishes by local runners at Kiawah on Saturday included 42-year-old Jason Annan of Mount Pleasant, who finished first in the masters division for the half marathon with a time of 1:20:06, and 56-year-old Ann Hampton of Charleston, who finished first grand master for the half marathon with a time of 1:35:31.
Meanwhile, the female winner of the half is a former local.
Paula Pridgen, 30, of Charlotte, N.C., actually got her start in running six years ago by doing the running leg for a triathlon team at the Kiawah Island Marathon. The team was made up of co-workers from her workplace, the local accounting firm of Dixon Hughes Goodman.
“At the time, I wasn’t a competitive runner. That was the first race I ever ran and remember doing the 10K in 7-minute miles (average pace),” recalled Pridgen. “So it was really cool to come back and race again at Kiawah and run 6 minute miles (for 13.1 miles).
Pridgen broke the magic mark of 1:20 for the half for the first time with a time of 1:19:30.
While no record times were set at this year’s event, the half marathon set a new finisher record with 2,824 crossing the line. Meanwhile, the marathon featured a minor drop in finishers, from 1,105 in 2015 to 1,025 this year.
The marathon winners were Lindsay Willard, 38, of Somerville, Mass., and Jason Altman, 37, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Willard, a graphic designer in Boston, overcame adversity in winning the marathon for females with a time of 2:56:10.
After spending much of last year in physical therapy for a hernia and torn oblique, she was getting back into shape over the summer when she suffered another obstacle. During a training run on a trail in Walden Woods, she tripped on a root, fell and fractured her knee cap. She debated whether “to sit on the couch and reboot” for 2017 or try to run a marathon.
“I’m glad I did this one,” said Willard.
Willard, a former Syracuse University runner who currently competes with the Boston Athletic Association, ran her fastest marathon, to date, at the 2013 Boston Marathon when she clocked in at 2:49:45. Less than two hours later, she was in the Prudential Center mall when she felt the walls shake from the bomb blasts during the terrorist attack.
She still marvels how the town quickly came together to help victims.
Meanwhile, the male marathon winner Altman claimed his fifth marathon win, but all four previous ones were at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, with the last coming on Nov. 12. Altman’s time at Kiawah was 2:38:15.
Altman’s amateur passion is also a professional one. He is the race director for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.
And Knoxville was well represented on Saturday as one of Altman’s training buddies, Alan Horton, finished second in the marathon with a time of 2:43:14.
Other performances of note was the completion of 100 marathons by Joe Malinowski, 68, of Bolivia, N.C., who started running marathons at the age of 30. Nine friends from North Carolina were on hand to watch him finish.
Also, Adam Gorlitsky, a paraplegic who made headlines last spring after walking the Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk with the aid of an exoskeleton, completed a 5K portion of the Kiawah Island half marathon on Saturday.
For complete results, go to http://www.rmssports.com/results/16KIAWAH.txt