A brisk wind chill of 37 degrees greeted runners as they lined up for the start of Saturday’s Publix Hilton Head Island Marathon, not that it mattered much to Bryan Kelpe.
“The wind chill is zero back home,” the Missouri runner said, “so this is much nicer.”
It’s also worth noting that Kelpe specializes in ultra marathons, so Saturday’s run was something of an appetizer for a 24-hour endurance race he’ll take on next month back home.
Suffice it to say Kelpe had all the pieces working in his favor, notching his first marathon victory as the only runner to cover the 26.2-mile course in less than 3 hours. His time of 2:55:47 was nearly 6 minutes ahead of Hilton Head Island teen Kris Geiger.
Christine Rockey of Conway captured the women’s title with a time of 3:05:43 that was the fastest by a female in the event’s three-year history. She reached the finish almost 7 minutes faster than Georgia’s Julie Albano.
Saturday’s event drew more than 1,200 runners to Jarvis Creek Park, race chief Mark Weisner said, about a 20 percent jump over the 2015 version. Though the number of marathon entries was slightly down, that was more than covered by a sharp rise in half-marathon runners.
As for the chilly temperatures? It’s all relative.
“As long as it’s not raining, I think we’re doing OK,” Weisner said. “Yeah, it was probably a little chilly. But when you look at what it’s going to be like tomorrow (near freezing), or what it was like last weekend with the rain, I think we got a good weekend.”
Kelpe, who lives in Cape Girardeau, Mo., chose Hilton Head Island to get in a shorter race before his schedule of ultra marathons picked up.
“It’s a good course,” he said. “Very scenic, lots of shade. There’s not very many places where you’re in the sun, so that was nice.”
He typically runs “four or five” ultra marathons a year, including at least one 100-miler and another 50-miler.
“It’s different,” he said. “I usually run at a little easier clip for a longer period. (This) is shorter, but you run harder.”
Rockey claimed her 13th marathon victory, competing in her second marathon in as many weekends. She was third at last week’s Tallahassee Marathon in Florida.
“That was the hilliest course ever,” she said. “I was really surprised. I went in with a goal of 3:10 and drove into town and said I’m changing that to 3:15.”
She met that mark, then knocked nearly 10 seconds off on the flatter Hilton Head Island route.
“I haven’t had a race like that in a while,” she said, “so I’m happy.”
Bluffton’s David Adams ran away with the half-marathon crown, cruising to the line in 1:12:58 to beat Kevin Huwe (Chattanooga, Tenn.) by 7 seven seconds. It was Adams’ third victory in as many years, the first two coming in the 5K competition.
“I ran with the 5K guys until they turned off,” Adams said. “Then I just kept on going. I was out there with the pace bike, so I had a little bit of company.”
Rock Hill teenager Olivia Paxton claimed her second consecutive women’s half-marathon crown, crossing in 1:25:08 to outpace Hilton Head Island’s Erika Shaughnessy once again. They were separated by just 3 seconds last year.
“I was hoping for a faster time this year,” said Paxton, a senior at South Pointe High. “Last year I had someone running with me, so this year was a little bit tougher.”
Hilton Head Island’s Nahuel Coronel, the runner-up behind Adams last year, won the 5K title with a time of 17:15. The women’s 5K title went to Ridgeland’s Rachel Bowling (20:24).
Marathon overall winners
Men: Bryan Kelpe, Cape Girardeau, Mo. (2:55:47)
Women: Christine Rockey, Conway (3:05:43)
Half Marathon winners
Men: David Adams, Bluffton (1:12:58)
Women: Olivia Paxton, Rock Hill (1:25:08)
Men: Nahuel Coronel, Hilton Head Island (17:15)
Women: Rachel Bowling, Ridgeland (20:24)
For complete results, see RaceMine.com