The sheer joy of running a marathon sometimes overwhelms me. This weekend was one of those times.

After three weeks of Michigan weather which included anywhere from three inches to two feet of snow on the ground, I flew to South Carolina, where shorts and a singlet were the order of the day.

I met my friend Jean from Dallas, at the airport in Charleston. We first met just over a year ago, and now have done six marathons together. He and I are both working on doing the 50 states. We drove out to Seabrook Island (since I didn't reserve on Kiawah early enough) where we had this great little 2 story apartment. Out the back was a deck overlooking a marsh, where we were able to see an occasional heron. Spanish moss hung from the trees, most of which still had leaves on them.

We went over to Kiawah to pick up our race packets--about 5 miles away.

The pasta party that night was one of the best--real silverware, excellent service, pecan pie for desert (as well as many other choices). Beer included :-)

Race day--we had to be at the parking lot at 6:45 in order to be shuttled to the race start. The morning was cool (high 40s) and overcast. I had my Dead Runners Society singlet on, and before the race, Mike Selman saw it and came up and introduced himself.

The half-marathon started at 8:00, with about 1800+ people. The marathon, with 1200+ started at 8:05. Because the island isn't real big, the course winds around quite a bit, and we would see the half marathon runners, then some marathon runners, then the half marathon people again, continually throughout the race. I saw a young kid (9 year old Bryant Rogers) running the half marathon with his mom when they were around the 8 mile mark. I veered over into his path and gave him a high-5 and a couple words of encouragement. Twice more I saw him after that and repeated the gesture. My last view of him was on the video at the party Saturday night, where I saw him running in the last mile of the race with a pretty big smile on his face. Way to go Bryant!

Just before mile 10, I caught a glimpse of Dave Couper (The Ancyent Marath'ner ), who was on his way to a 4th place finish in the half marathon. Dave's another Dead Runner, with whom I've corresponded and had hoped to meet. I only knew it was him because I saw his singlet, but it was too late to yell at him by the time I saw it.

Signs along the course near the open water areas reminded us not to approach alligators or try to feed them. One girl I was running near saw one, and I looked up in time to see the water moving but never saw the 'gator. With all the Gatorade on the course, I'm surprised we didn't see more.

Mile 22 was my worst mile (timewise) at 11:28. Right about the 22 mile mark, I hooked up with a young guy who was running his first marathon. He was struggling a little bit, but we started talking and I gave him my usual motivational BS. Of course, it works on me better than it works on other people, but I didn't tell him that. Anyway, we ran together to the 25 mile mark, and I was feeling stronger all the time.

At 25 miles (God save the Queen) I took off, and didn't see him again until the end. My last 5 miles were 11:28, 11:16, 10:45, 10:14, 9:46!! The announcer called my name when I crossed the finish line. I felt invigorated, excited, ready to go do a couple-mile cooldown run. (Which, of course, I wisely decided NOT to do.) My finish time was 4:34:40, my best time of the year (out of 14 marathons).

Penny McCreight (another Dead Runner) met me just after the finish line. She had finished about 5 minutes before me. I saw her back between 19 and 20 at one of the out-and-back loops. After a short conversation, we remembered that she came out at the 24 mile mark in Chicago in '99 and run a short distance with me. She finished third in her age group.

Jean had finished at 3:50-something and was waiting for me. We headed in for some well deserved refreshments.

Post race party was another buffet, lots of fruit, muffins, hot bean soup, beer and other beverages. I sat at the table enjoying the company of other runners as well as one of the best runner's highs I've ever had.

I can see why this marathon is so highly rated. It's one of the best-run marathons I've ever done. Great organization, three parties, beautiful course. I just may go back again next year.

And the adventure continues.....

Don Kern
p.s. For a glimpse of Kiawah Island, check out the movie Bagger Vance, which was shot there.