Hilton Head Island is about to experience something new: a marathon.
About 1,400 runners and walkers from across the country and around the world are signed up for the inaugural marathon, half-marathon or 5k race on Feb. 8. The race is a Boston Marathon qualifier and an expansion of the half-marathon Hilton Head has had for the last 11 years.
Running a marathon takes months of training and preparation. And for those running the full 26.2 miles, crowd support can help push them across the finish line.
The Hilton Head Marathon will be the fifth for Hilton Head resident Annette Lee, who has ran in the Louisville, Kiawah Island, West Palm and Savannah Rock 'n' Roll marathons.
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"We're out there for miles and miles, so when you hit a wall it's really nice to have these people you don't even know cheering you on," Lee said. "When I ran (the Louisville Marathon), there were people just everywhere, and that was my best time too."
Signs give runners something to read, distracting them from the mile count and pain of their burning legs. Runners can wear headphones but have to keep them at a low volume, so cheering can help break up the monotony.
"It does take the mind off of running," Lee said. "Having little kids with signs that say 'Keep running,' keeps you moving. I'm hoping to see a lot of people through the neighborhoods."
During marathons, people gather along the course to support not just their family or friends running, but all the participants. More than 1 million people lined the streets of Chicago in October to cheer on the 39,000 runners in the Chicago Marathon.
"People coming out and cheering is what's so appealing about these big city races," said Mark Weisner, the event organizer with Bear Foot Sports. "We want the island to support the race."
Volunteers are also needed to pass out water to the runners along the course, help with registration and work the finish line. Visit www.bearfootsports.com or call 843-757-8520 for more information on volunteering.
Those who have not yet registered for the event may still do so. Late registration and packet pickup is from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Westin Resort and Spa, 2 Grasslawn Ave, Hilton Head, or the morning of the race from 6:30 to 7:15 a.m. Feb. 8 at Jarvis Creek Park.
Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.