Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon Offers Maximum Fun

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There's a popular saying in running circles that claims half-marathoners have double the fun of their marathon-running counterparts, in part because they get to enjoy the entire race-weekend experience without all the muscle cramps and training restrictions. That old adage certainly applies to the Oct. 22-23 Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, a 13.1-mile race and a fun-filled fall event.

In addition to getting some good exercise in a beautiful setting, runners can also take in all the sights and sounds of Myrtle Beach in the autumn, when the mild climate and small crowds combine to create an ideal time for both running and playing. And because the course's home stretch runs along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk through the downtown district, runners and their friends and families can stay only a short walk away from the finish line by calling Bay View on the Boardwalk home for the weekend.

The course for this year's seventh annual Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon includes five miles of oceanfront running, ending with a big post-race party at Plyler Park on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. The festivities, which include live music and a beer garden, are only a hop, skip and jump away from Bay View on the Boardwalk, where guests don't have to do a lot of extra pre-race and post-race walking in order to check out all the attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife the downtown has to offer.

The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon welcomes as many as 4,000 runners to the Grand Strand each year, and even more participants for the Coastal 5K and Doggie Dash sister events that are held Saturday as tune-ups for Sunday's main event. Racers compete in various age and gender divisions, but primarily race against the clock in an effort to achieve a personal best time, an achievable goal given the flat and fast coastal course. Fans line the streets to cheer on the pack from front to back.

This year's event features several changes, beginning with the location of the Health & Fitness Expo and the site for runner check-in. The expo has moved to the Crabtree Recreation Center at The Market Common, where participants pick up their race packets and join in the fitness-related festivities. Footwear and apparel vendors, running coaches and medical experts, and other exhibitors will be on hand during regular expo hours from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Market Common also will be the new home for Saturday's Coastal 5K and the Doggie Dash, a unique event designed for runners and their dogs. The Coastal 5K starts at 7:30 a.m. with a scenic 3.1-mile loop through Grand Park and the upscale shopping district, followed by the Doggie Dash's parade of runners and their four-legged friends at 9:15 a.m. Hosted by the Grand Strand Humane Society, this animal-friendly fundraiser is a great event for people and pets to interact in a fun environment.

The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon's starting gun fires at 7 a.m. on Sunday and sends runners dashing from the starting line at Coastal Grand Mall, down the scenic Robert Grissom Parkway that cuts through the city, and through the Pine Lakes and Ocean Forest neighborhoods to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The course runs south down Ocean Boulevard through Myrtle Beach's famed “Golden Mile” before merging with the 1.4-mile Myrtle Beach Boardwalk for the final stretch to the finish line.

After breaking the tape, catch your breath and join in the party at Plyler Park. Dance to the music, enjoy some hot food and cold beer, and celebrate with fellow runners who went the distance. The awards ceremony is the highlight of the event as runners receive their surfboard-shaped medals and the winners are presented with trophies and showered with applause. Bay View Resort guests can hobble back home for a dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub and a good night's sleep.