Epic Lowcountry 62+ mile race takes shape

in Voices by

The Rauch Report

By Bill Rauch

Parris Island is putting together a team. The Naval Hospital is too. The Air Station, Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and the Citadel have all been invited to do the same. ESPN is on notice.

There’s a little known opportunity next month on May 16 for the right team of civilian runners to snatch the “Parris Island Centennial 100k Relay Race” trophy away from the guys in uniform, and become unique (running world) heroes.

LCDR Heath, right, slips by on the inside in the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon in Afghanistan.
LCDR Heath, right, slips by on the inside in the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon in Afghanistan.

This is for lifetime bragging rights.

The upcoming contest is believed to be the longest and most competitive running race ever staged in the Carolina Lowcountry.

The starting gun goes off for the 100k race, which is being designed to be run in twelve relay legs that vary from 4.2 miles to 5.5 miles in length, at 6:30 that Saturday morning. Registration forms are available on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Centennial Celebration website until May 8.

The race is the spectacular kickoff for a series of events that are now being planned that will take place on Parris Island and in the Town of Port Royal during the upcoming summer and fall, all of which are a part of the official celebration of 100 years of continuous Marine Corps training operations at Parris Island.

The Marines first came to Parris Island in 1896 to provide security for a Navy dry dock facility there. But when the Navy consolidated its yard operations in Charleston in 1915, at the urging of the South Carolina State Legislature the Marines took over the island and set up a barracks there. It is the transfer of title from the Navy to the Marines and the standing up of the barracks on Parris Island that is being celebrated this summer, according to Marine Corps Captain David Murray, the race’s and the centennial celebration’s principal organizer.

The historic approximately 62.1 mile race begins at the “We Make Marines” overpass opposite the Recruit Depot’s parade deck and proceeds from there around Parris Island, out the P.I. entrance causeway, up one temporarily closed off lane of Ribaut Road to the Old Village section of Port Royal, and then to The Naval Hospital where it then doubles back to Parris Island.

Teams will be required to run the 31 mile course twice, so there will be plenty of opportunities for spectators to see the runners in action. Civilian spectators will be encouraged to view the race in Port Royal along Paris Avenue or at the skate park. The organizers are expecting 15-20 teams at this time, according to Port Royal Police Captain Andre Massey.

There may be more. Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 5.22.19 PM

Registered teams must contain at least six participants, Captain Murray explained last week. This is for two reasons: to honor the Marines’ tradition of teamwork, and to keep the speeds up and thus the traffic lane closures to a minimum. Teams that cannot keep up a 9 min. 30 sec. per mile pace throughout the distance won’t finish, he added.

Navy LCDR Aileen Heath who will run, and who is helping put together the Naval Hospital’s team, said last week excitement about the race among the local running community is building. Heath, who has run Marine Corps Marathons in both DC and in Afghanistan, and the Boston Marathon as well, predicted teams will address the legs differently with some longer distance runners running back-to-back legs while other 5-8k specialists might run one leg out and then take a short rest while their teammates wear the belt before they strap it on again for another later leg. “And then there will be one Marine,” LCDR Heath added smiling, “these guys are amazing, you watch – who doesn’t register, who doesn’t get a number, who just silently appears in the group at the start and who runs the whole thing. And then he goes and gets a taco.”

Directions: Start/Finish. East on Blvd De France. North on Santo Domingo. South on Mexico. East on Tripoli. South on Nicaragua. West on China Hutung. South on Cuba. Merge with Yorktown Blvd intersection. North on Wake Blvd. West on 3rd Bn Pond Rd. East on Ribaut Rd (Highway 21). Merge SE onto West Paris. Merge south onto Paris Ave. East on 14th St. Merge NE onto Old Shell Rd. Enter Naval Hospital. Execute twice.