Running in a sea of sparkles: The Diva’s Half Marathon

A sparkling sea of pink waits for the beginning of the Diva's Half Marathon and 5k

A sparkling sea of pink waits for the beginning of the Diva’s Half Marathon and 5k

Perched on the steps of a nearby building I realized that I might not be the right audience for the Diva’s Half Marathon series – or any “women’s series race” for that matter, because it is missing one element which I really enjoy at running events: MEN.

Now, I am not saying I was sorry to be there… It is a goal of mine to do a race from every major series at least once, so there I was, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The diva series has been around for several years and it is all about girl power, encouragement, motivation… and sparkle – lots and lots of sparkle.

The expo, or should I say “Health and Fitness Boutique” had the usual vendors. It was organized and easy to get to, and many first time runners were exploring the booths – one of the more popular being Sparkle Skirts – a favorite among many of friends who are seasoned runners. I headed out soon with my pink shirt and bag to get ready for the morning.

Swag for the Diva's Half Marathon

Swag for the Diva’s Half Marathon

Waiting at the start line, I saw many friends who I have made running at events across the country. There were lots of smiles and selfies… and the cast of Medieval Times. The 5k took off first and the half-marathon soon after. The course itself was fine – fairly flat with some beautiful homes, but no real views of the ocean.

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Shortly before the finish, volunteers handed each runner a pink feather boa and a plastic tiara. I laughed as I couldn’t imagine putting this on my sweaty shoulders… but as we got closer to the finish line, many other runners were for the finish line photo. Then, as I rounded the corner, I saw it…. the men. Not just men, but buff… shirtless…. firemen. Ok, maybe I am a bit of a diva. The firemen were all smiles as they put the medals around each divas neck and posed for pictures with all who asked. Immediately after the medal, a long stem red rose and glass of bubbly were handed to me. Ok, ok…. I give in…. this was fun.

Run like a nut half marathon

Starting on an unassuming side street in-front of a small local gym in Florence South Carolina, I arrived for the “Run like a Nut” Half Marathon – Race #10 in my series of 52 this season. 
Standing in the cool morning, I started chatting with a group of women from various Black Girls Run! Groups across South Carolina – most of them were from the Florence Group however, and I was introduced to their Ambassador, Lysandra. 
I ended up in their team picture and got in line to run with them. This is what I love about their group… as it was said so eloquently  the only part of black girls run you need to meet is to be a girl…. race and speed are completely negotiable 🙂

The weather had turned warm quickly, and as I wound through the city streets my thoughts turned to this journey I was on… lots of driving and nights at motels for in exchange for some race bling and an un-shaking sense of accomplishment. 

I was greeted at the finish line by my friend Lisa, who had run the 10K and the pecan pie which had lured me to this destination! It was delicious… however, the best part of this race was after it was over. A group of us went back to run in the last runner, a magnificent woman, and new friend – Tyra. Lisa captured several pictures of our finish with her… as she pointed to the sky in praise and victory. This is my favorite part of every race… the support and friendship that is found along the road. 

The Darlington Half Marathon

The first victory of the day was getting out of Orlando by 5:30am and through Jacksonville before 8. Arriving in Darlington, SC just after lunch, I passed by my hotel in nearby Florence and went directly to the packet pickup site for the Darlington Marathon (warning, the site plays music!).
Packet pick-up was a no frills event, however to get to it, race participants walked through the stock car museum at the Darlington Raceway. Taking time to walk through and look at the cars and artifacts on display, I realized I had not been certain  what I would find here. The museum website says that they can: “Offer those who are interested in the history of stock car racing and in-depth look at the roots of the sport, and has a lot to pique the interest of newer fans as well.”
The pictures above are just a few of the cars on display. Although this was included as part of the packet pick-up experience, NASCAR fan or not, anyone visiting the area could learn a lot about this iconic American sport for the $5 price of admission (free for children). 
Stepping out of the hotel room in the dark cloak of early morning, the crisp fall air was a refreshing change from the heat and humidity of recent races. Sporting my new “Half Fanatics” singlet, the easy journey from Florence to Darlington found me at the track with plenty of time to spare.
Like most inaugural races – there were some hiccups here. The picture above shows the line for the porta-potties 35 minutes before race start. I got through just before the official start time of 7AM – however the race director did delay the race 10 minutes to let the line clear.  As we waited, he discussed with the mostly patient crowd that next year there would be more. 
The wait gave the gathering crowd time to look at the giant banner which, acting as a start line, celebrated Steve Hughes who was running his 300th Marathon at this event. 300 – the number rolled around in my mind. Would I ever be in those ranks? I smiled as I thought… probably, well, for half marathons at least – after all by the end of this running season I will be closing in on the 100 half marathons mark. 
The course was not overly exciting, wrapping through the streets surrounding Darlington. However, like most things in life, it was the finish that mattered. Entering the same tunnel where the cars enter the track – a second wind came upon the runners who finished the final mile on the iconic oval track. 
The finish line was filled with fan-fair and and in it waited a treat in the cool air of the morning: hot, fresh, chicken noodle soup – a brimming cup of salt, fat, carbs and protein…. everything needed to begin the recovery process. 
Runners sat in the bleachers usually packed with racing fans sipping their soup and water and trading stories of races run and those to come. As enjoyable as this was, as I peered over the empty stands to my right, I remembered that there was no time to waste… my afternoon would consist of the drive west to Pine Mountain, Georgia for tomorrows race. 
The custom medal, attached to the checkered satin ribbon would be a nice addition to my collection.  The same design but half the size of the full marathon medal, I knew then that if I do this race again next year – I will be coming back for the big one.