37th Annual Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR) Marathon – Kiawah Island, SC – December 13th, 2014

In my opinion, you could NOT ask for better conditions for a road marathon – well, for any race. Sure, there could have been a tailwind the entire time, but that’s just being greedy.  It was a little chilly at the starting line (about 39°F), but bright and sunny, and almost no wind. The KIGR marathon is a relatively small marathon with about 1,000 full finishers and about 2,700 half finishers the past few years.  As the name suggests, the marathon takes place on Kiawah Island, which is a secluded barrier island located to the Southwest of the Charleston Peninsula.  Compared to other nearby barrier islands, Kiawah is less developed and has tons of trees, multipurpose paths and golf courses; very pretty!  There are great nature programs and facilities on the island, and the director of all of it, Liz King is truly an amazing individual!  It’s also the island where I did my Masters thesis research on Reptiles and Amphibians.  The race is fast and flat! It’s basically AT sea level and there is about 30 feet of total elevation change throughout the race. This makes for some pretty fast times, especially for a small marathon that is about 45-minutes from a “major” city (Charleston, SC) and about 4 hours from the nearest major metropolitan area (Charlotte, NC).  The winning time this year was 2:29:52, and rest assured that was NOT my time!

Keith_pre-race Keith_finishline

Photos. Left: Pre-race, yay!  Right: Finish line, feeling fast! (All photos by Laura Mudge)

This was my 3rd year in a row running the KIGR marathon and 3rd marathon overall; I’m not a serial marathoner. In fact, this was the race where I really began my running/racing career. My first attempt at it was in December of 2012, a short five-ish months after picking up running from square one.  I did do two 5K’s in the summer of 2012 to experience the race environment, but that was about it.  I was working on assignment in Texas from August to December 2012, so racing was not a priority. But when I landed back in Charleston, I gave the KIGR marathon a shot!  That first year was a bit of a struggle. I came out pretty hard, and like so many first-time marathon runners, hit the “wall,” possibly cried, possibly soiled myself… and somehow finished.  Hmmm…. or, maybe the “wall” hit me.  Really, it felt a little more like when David Spade hit Chris Farley with a 2×4 across the face in Tommy Boy.  Yeah, that’s more like it. That year I ended up finishing in 3:45:48, which was 264th out of 1078th.

I changed my game plan and training in 2013, and also stepped up to the world of ultra marathons.  I did not focus my training on one goal race in 2013, and just trained pretty continuously throughout the year, competing in a few races – tapering and recovering appropriately from each one of them.  When I toed the line at the 36th annual KIGR marathon, I felt great.  That year, I also set up a RALLY campaign to raise money for relief efforts in the Philippines from super typhoon Haiyan.  This was especially important to me because one of the hardest hit areas (the island of Leyte) was where my girlfriend, Laura, was serving as a PeaceCorps volunteer before, during, and after the storm.  I had also visited her in the winter of 2013, so I experienced the people, places and culture first-hand.  Laura had been temporarily evacuated from the Philippines and was back in the US for about a month and a half, so she was able to be at the marathon with me that year!  It was awesome!  I ended up raising over $2,100 for relief efforts, so the marathon was a stunning success!  Oh yeah, I also ran a slightly quicker marathon in 3:28:39 (like 7:58 pace), which was good enough for 91st out of 897th.

hansoncollage1Photos. Left: My support crew! Jodi, Lauton and Laura.  Right: Keith Straw, friend and amazing runner!

This year, like I said, was perfect.  The ideal conditions and a few nice folks to run with really set me on the right path.  But more importantly, for the 3rd year in a row, my great friend Lauton came out to cheer and support.  Also, after finishing her service in the PeaceCorps, Laura was there again, along with our friend Jodi.  I always love seeing people I know and love on the course – it always gives me an extra boost!  Well, I certainly came out really hard this year, but was able to maintain about 6:57 pace for most of the race.  Some miles were slightly slower and some slightly faster, but I had NO IDEA I could run that fast!  I tried to pick up the pace a little too soon, around mile 16 and really paid for that around mile 23.  That last 5K was brutal!  I probably ran it in 24 minutes, but I made it to the finish line!  I finished in about 3:03:50 (7:01 pace), and made it in the top 30 (28th out of 994).

There is a great after party every year with a good beer selection, responsibly sourced and sustainable food options, live music and lots of port-a-potty’s!  Yes, sometimes the tummy gets upset after running a marathon at 7:01 pace! I became great friends with the port-a-potty for a while, but rallied to fully enjoy the after party!

 

Either way, this is a pretty great “destination” marathon.  It’s very pretty, super close to the beach, relatively small, and has great facilities, people and cool after party.  Also, Liz King and her staff have gone to great lengths to lessen the impact of the race by having ample recycling and composting bins, using compostable plates, silverware, etc. and by using sustainable and local food, beer, etc.!  They ROCK! ~Keith Hanson

 

Gear:

NipEAZE

Bottom: Skins A400 ¾ men’s tights

Top: Patagonia Airflow tank

Nutrition: PacificHealth Laboratories, Inc – Accel Gels:  Key Lime, Chocolate and Vanilla, 2nd Surge Pina Colada and Body Glove Surge

Socks: FITS Socks Pro Trail Performance Quarter

Shoes: New Balance MT20v2 Minimus trail shoe

Hydration: Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 20

Other: Full UV Buff and Half AK UV Buff – Garmin Forerunner 210