Big month for running hits homestretch at Beach Run

There was a time when Myrtle Beach was invaded by college and high school students looking for a relaxing spring break, but these days they are coming for a different change of pace.

The Sun Fun Capital is becoming the Run Capital for thousands of young track and field athletes and more experienced marathon runners. During a five-week span that began with the March 1 Myrtle Beach Marathon and will end with the April 5-6 Beach Run Invitational, more than 7,500 athletes will have left their footprints in competitive events in Myrtle Beach.

“We’ve had college kids running around town for weeks, and one of the neat things about the college meets is a longer average stay,” said City of Myrtle Beach sports tourism director Timothy Huber. “The average track and field athlete is spending four or five days (for two-day events), so it’s as much about being able to train here as it is for the competition.”

That running trend is also healthy for the local economy. The Myrtle Beach Marathon events (marathon, half-marathon, 5K and Fun Run) had 4,500 participants and an estimated $2 million direct economic impact. The trio of college and high school events (CCU Invitational, Shamrock Invitational and Beach Run Invitational) generated an estimated $2 million in 2018.

That’s a nice return on investment in the 2017 renovations to Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, which received a $5.4 million makeover that included resurfacing the track and football field and upgrading the facilities. Myrtle Beach not only has the appeal of the beach for student-athletes during spring break, but also first-class facilities and top-notch competition.

“Everyone has been impressed by the upgrades in the facilities,” said Beach Run Invitational meet director Jeff Jacobs. “I have spoken to coaches who were here before (the 2017 renovations) and they have been received positively. They say it’s a much better experience now with the new track and facilities, like the video board, and the word has gotten out.”

More than 700 elite high school track and field athletes from nine states are expected for the April 5-6 Beach Run Invitational, one of only nine outdoor meets in the nation to be sanctioned by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation. The NSAF offers scholarships to top track and field athletes to enter the event, but they’re not the only beneficiaries.

In an effort to give local athletes a chance to compete at the highest level, the Beach Run Invitational is open to all nine Horry County Schools track and field programs at no cost. It’s a throwback to when the inaugural Beach Run was held in 2005 by former Carolina Forest track and field coach JJ Iagulli, who started it to give local athletes a shot to shine.

“From the City’s point of view, no entry frees for County schools was just the right thing to do,” Huber said. “That’s one of reasons JJ created the event was so his teams got a chance to compete in this kind of atmosphere. For local athletes to be a part of an event with hundreds of athletes around the country, it gives them an advantage as they progress.”

Myrtle Beach High track and field coach Ryan Caputo is especially appreciative to host such an elite meet. “Most of them are in the Columbia area so it’s great to have something here on our home track,” he said. “It’s nice for our athletes that are excelling to get that higher-level competition, and for our younger kids to see what the big-time looks like and aspire to reach it.”

Organizers hope the local community will also come out to see what all the track-and-field fuss is about. Tickets to the two-day event are $20 for adults, and $5 for students with identification.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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