The Daufuskie Island Marathon was totally unexpected. We were scheduled to run The Charleston, SC Marathon, but the marathon was canceled due to Covid a week before the race. Diane and Angie signed up
for the Charleston marathon first, and then later told us the date, which was the same weekend as my birthday. It seemed like the natural thing to do, to sign up for a Birthday Marathon weekend.
When the news of the cancellation came out, Kim
researched and found the Daufuskie Island marathon that was schedule on the same day as Charleston. I messaged the race info to the girls, and the text messages started to go back and forth like wild fire. After researching logistics, Diane and
Angie both signed up. Kim and I discussed and decided not to risk traveling with Covid cases back on the rise in CT. By the next morning once we realized our hotel was non-refundable we both decided to go with hopes that our vaccinations and booster
would protect us and we’d be smart by double masking on the plane. We were still on the fence about the marathon at that point since the race logistics seemed impossible.
Package pickup was
on Thursday and Friday in Hilton Head which was a little over a 2-hour drive. I reached out to the race director and asked if we could have race day package pick up. He wrote back immediately and indicated they would allow race day pick up but
we had to register right away since there were only 12 spots available. We signed up immediately and the race sold out by the afternoon.
It would be a tough race day since we would have to wake up at 2:30 AM to drive to Hilton Head to get
the 30-minute ferry to the Island at 5:30 AM.
I had researched the race on www.marathonguide.com and there were no reviews. Then, I looked on www.Findmymarathon.com and
it did not look good. There were only 84 finishers in 2021, 40 in 2020, 23 in 2019 and none in 2018. The course was 2 loops and it was described as part road, part path and part dirt road. I visualized a dusty, lonely course in the middle
of the woods on an island. Boy was I in for a surprise!
We went to dinner in Charleston at an Italian restaurant that said it was “outdoor dining”. We arrived only to find out we
were to be seated outside in an enclosed patio with heaters above our head. Boy was it warm, but the food was fantastic. We told the waitress that we were running the Daufuskie Island Marathon and she told us that the island was absolutely beautiful.
She mentioned there were a lot of deer on the Island that are so friendly that you can actually pet them! For the first time I was getting excited for the race!
We woke up at 2:30 AM and left the
hotel promptly at 3:30 AM to begin our journey to Hilton Head. Diane drove and I was strategically placed in the back seat since I’m a bit of a pain in the ass and probably the worst back seat driver ever! I still poked my head through and
helped direct Diane by announcing turns, stops, even though Siri announced the same thing a couple seconds later. I spotted a deer on the side of the highway that no one else saw. I’m sure they were thinking I was seeing things until we all
spotted the second deer. We all paid close attention after that!
We finally arrived at Haigs Point where we had to pick up the ferry. It was pitch black and there was only one person outside. We were nervous that we weren’t
at the right place until more people started to arrive. We went inside to get our ferry vouchers and were directed outside to wait for the ferry. They had a heater to keep people warm. It was pretty nippy outside with temperatures in the
low 40’s. Finally, we all got on the ferry and I was pleased to see that everyone read the race instructions that we all had to have masks on for the ferry ride. I nodded off only to wake up hear one of the ultra-marathoners that seemed to
never stop talking about every race she did in her life. I looked up at my friends and it was that silent “no words need be spoked” stare as we all pretty much had it with her non-stop talking. I looked over at Kim who had his head
down and fingers in his ears to muffle her.
Finally, we arrived at the Island and as we exited the boat I looked out on the horizon and just stopped to witness the most breathtaking sunrise. The moon had just enough light to reflect the
white sandy beach. Just WOW! We were led to a tent that was illuminated with lights around the top and strategically placed heaters throughout. Inside were tables set up for the runner to sit and congregate. I looked across the room to see they
even had hot coffee and cinnamon buns for the runners.
We walked over to get our bibs that were tiny like an index card. Then, they handed us our race swag that was a sweet black fleece lined jacket with the race logo on the front. They
told Kim they ran out of all the men’s medium and offered him a long sleeve hoodie instead. Also, they gave Kim the option that if he didn’t like the long sleeve hoodie, they would mail him a jacket. Kim opted to have the jacket to be mailed.
I felt like I was on the State Farm commercial where people were passing out from shock of the great customer service!
When it was about 15 minutes to start I headed to the port-o-lets one more time. When I came out it was just starting to get
light enough to see this beautiful island. I looked around at the trees and could see the sunrise that was now a brilliant pink. I was blown away by the beauty. I went back to the volunteer package pick up table. The woman immediately
asked “did you need your bib ”? I said “no”! I just wanted to say, I’ve run a LOT of marathons and so far, even though I haven’t seen the course yet, this is just incredible. Then she said “wait until
the post marathon party! People all sit outside on the grass and soak in the sun and listen to the live music.
We headed to the start and I had to use the bathroom one more time. There were only 2 port-o-lets
available and the line was so long. Then they announced the singer of the Star-Spangled Banner and I said, let’s just go to the start now and I could use a bathroom on the course. I was so cold that it was uncomfortable. I was wearing
shorts, tank top, sleeves, and a long sleeve as the top layer. I looked around and pretty much everyone had on only their tank tops. I decided at that moment to get rid of my long sleeve but keep my mittens, hat and hand warmers.
the start horn went off and we started to run. The island was like an enchanted forest. We started on pavement for about 3 miles and then were on a dirt road. The dirt terrain was challenging in areas where the sand was so soft it was like running
on the beach. Some of the trees were covered in moss and the birds were chirping. I remember saying to Angie, “This reminds me of the Rainforest Café”. The was a woman running next to us agreed and said “just as long
as they don’t have a surprise thunderstorm”!
When I got to the first water stop I tossed my gloves and hat. I warmed up rather quickly. I heard something in the woods and turned to see my first deer spotting on the island.
The water stops were about every 3 miles and in the race logistics they recommended runners to carry their own water. Both Kim, Angie and I carried handhelds. We got to around mile 4 and now I really needed to use the bathroom. I started
to pull away from Kim that was talking to a runner. I could hear their conversations as I was running. “Hi, I’m Bubba, I’m from Mississippi”. Kim was chatting with him and I started to look for a port-o-let. By the
time I found one, I didn’t have to go anymore. Kim was quite a ways behind me now, and I just felt great so I kept going. I am not sure if I was “sleep running” but I was spacing out enough to find myself sort of waking up when
my watch chimed another mile.
The beauty of this island certainly kept my mind distracted. Each different section had something unique and beautiful. The houses were your classic “Gone with the Wind” southern homes with
beautiful wrap around porches. The island was classy and quaint. There were arrows with directions to the club house, food, rum, church, restaurant, etc. Towards mile 8 I got to see Diane run by who was running the ½ marathon.
It sure brought a big smile to my face since I was pretty much running alone at this point. I kept leap frogging with a walk/runner guy. I asked him his strategy. He was run/walking 4/1, 5/1 and then 6/1 ratios. Funny how the run/walkers
end up with you even though they throw in a walk. I ran with a couple women for a bit and chatted. One of my favorite parts of the race is around mile 11 when you turn and run out by the water. It was on white loose gravel that looked like
it would have been sea shells at one time. Then I heard music blasting that was coming from the mansions by the waterfront. The music that was so loud! The owners were outside jumping up and down cheering. It was pretty cool to have some crowd
support! I finally made my way to the half way point back at the start line and headed back out for the second loop.
Even though I was running alone, there were golf carts constantly driving by with the drivers and passengers cheering “you look
strong, you got this”. I came by the stable for the second time but now the horses were outside. I felt like I was looking at a painting. They were standing so still and majestic. I saw a couple volunteers and yelled to them, “This
is the MOST beautiful marathon”. The only “hills” on the course were a series of little bridges that had water fountains on each side in a neighborhood. As I started to run up the little bridges I noticed the “beware of
alligators” signs posted and boy did that give me a boost to run faster! Then, of course I began wondering if alligators would be on the course. I think those were some of my fastest splits!
Then I spotted my next deer sighting.
There was deer on the side of the road with a Styrofoam cup in its mouth. A couple of runners were trying to help the deer. Even though we were on this enchanted island there were still people that littered.
As I started to creep into
the higher miles I still felt great. I was still running alone, but there were other runners that we either coming towards me or I was passing that were constantly saying “you got this” or “you look so strong, don’t give up”.
I loved the comradery. I was following a dude for quite a while that had an iron man tattoo on the back of his leg. I was definitely drafting him trying to keep up with him. When we got to the beach section I started to pass him. He
was struggling. I said “hey, you’ve been keeping me going for such a long time, don’t slow down now”. He said “just get me through this lose gravel” This section by the water was about a mile long. Now,
I was in front of him and he was drafting me. When we finally exited that section, he was side by side with me and saying to me “come on”, “you got this”. We started to come into the finish and I started to drop back.
He turned to look for me and yelled “Come on”! I could hear Diane yelling “Go Jeanne” as I spotted her! It’s so nice to see a familiar face! I almost started to cry! I pushed myself and sprinted right to
the finish line. I finished at a pretty decent 3:45 time (BQ & 2nd AG). Not bad for setting out with little expectations and lack of sleep. Also, the course was so forgiving. What an amazing race!
After, I chatted with
the dude that I ran with and then walked over to see Diane and started to get chilly. When I was walking to the gear check I was surprised to see all the vendors, live music and people sitting in the sun celebrating their success. I even got my
medal engraved for free!
The tables in the tent we saw earlier now had been dressed up with white linens. The post-race food was incredible. It felt more like a catered event than a road race. The
food consisted of grilled hotdogs, hamburgers, “impossible” vegetarian burgers, potato salad, pasta salad, chips, lemonade, iced tea, water and free beer! We stayed and chatted with a lot of runners and took photos with the Texas Team Beef
girls, (Keili and Corye) that we saw on the course. We even got to see our CT friend Sharon that moved to Hilton Head. What a GREAT day. We took the ferry back to Hilton Head and headed back to Charleston. All of us talked about what
a great experience we had.
Would I run this again? Oh, my goodness yes. This was a small-town race with such class and character. We referred to this race as a "VIP golf club" event. I want to leave a really positive review on
the different online platforms but I am also afraid that it will draw a large crowd and next year it will be impossible to get in! Hat’s off to the race director and volunteers. Thank you for the best birthday marathon experience.