Inaugural Hilton Head Island Marathon this weekend

mmccombs@islandpacket.comFebruary 7, 2014 

“We want to make sure everyone has a great experience,” said Mark Weisner of Bear Foot Sports, the organizer of Saturday’s inaugural Hilton Head Island Marathon. “That means runners and volunteers. We strive for perfection every time. I’m sure an issue or two will come up, but we’ll get past it and do better next time.

“We just want everybody to say, ‘boy, that was awesome.’ ”

Roughly 1,400 runners and walkers from 32 states and eight countries will participate Saturday in the Hilton Head Island Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K.

The event starts at 8 a.m. from Jarvis Creek Park.

Weisner said it took a lot of cooperation for the marathon, an expansion of the long-running half-marathon, to get off the ground.

“There are a lot of people involved,” Weisner said. “The sheriff’s department had to agree, the town, the county, the S.C. Department of Transportation. We had to have parking. But a whole bunch of people have to sign off. We’re just fortunate that everyone did.”

Weisner said there has long been talk of a marathon on the island, but before three years ago, it would not have been likely without the bike paths that now stretch across the island.

“A lot of this course is on the bike path,” Weisner said. “It’s very fortunate that they built the bike paths. Without them, we couldn’t have done it safely without closing roads and interfering with people.”

For runners, the marathon is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. The course is certified by U.S. Track and Field and takes contestants through two parks and over the Broad Creek.

Runners are still welcome to register and volunteers are needed, as well.

“Typically we get 100 people in late registration Friday and Saturday,” Weisner said. “We can accommodate more, but that’s what we expect.”

Weisner said the event might lose walkers or fair-weather runners if the forecast for rain holds true. But the event will go on, rain or shine.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy,” Weisner said. “Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.”

A percentage of proceeds will benefit five local charities — The Hilton Head Rotary Club, Hilton Head Island High School athletics, Hilton Head Island High ROTC, Hilton Head Christian Academy and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Beaufort County. The event has donated more than $31,000 to area charities in its 11 years.

“This race benefits some great causes, and a great thing about it, as well, is that it brings a lot of people to the island,” Weisner said. “And you know that getting 1,400 people to do anything on Hilton Head Island in February is a big challenge.”

Hilton Head Island Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K

8 a.m., Saturday, Jarvis Creek Park.

Volunteers: Volunteers are still needed for all aspects of the race including: course management, water stations, refreshments, registration, and finish line. Volunteers will receive an event T-shirt and refreshments.

Still time to register: Late Registration and Packet pick-up is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at The Westin Resort or on from 6:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. Saturday at Jarvis Creek Park.

Traffic plan: Traffic to Jarvis Creek Park off Hwy 278, Nature's Way, Pembroke Rd, The Crossing Island Parkway, Arrow Rd, Marshland Rd, Spanish Wells Road and Point Comfort will be affected at some time between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. The Cross Island Parkway and all toll booths will remain open throughout the races, however the west bound lane of the Cross Island Parkway will be reduced to one lane from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Details: www.BearFootSports.com or call 843-757-8520.

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