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The 33rd Annual Kiawah Island Marathon drew 3,457 runners this year with hundreds of spectators, staff, and volunteers, coming together to share the day and make the event a success. Charleston Waterkeeper and MESSA volunteer team had the honor of manning both the half-way point turn off (full marathoners completed the half marathon loop twice) and the start/finish line stations. We stayed busy from the moment we arrived at 6:30 AM, bundled up and filled with the anticipation of the race. Lead by Kiawah Island Recreation staffers we started our shift by setting up the starting line water station and coordinated the pacing line-up. Throughout the day we did periodic sweeps of the course for trash, recyclables, and compost, waiting in anxious anticipation for the runners to come back around. As the first runners began to near the finish line, the sidelines erupted in cheers and shouts of encouragement. As finish line volunteers, we greeted the runners with water, food, marathon blankets, and medals.

I cannot tell you what an inspiration and honor it was to the see the many faces and people that ran the race and then to be able to congratulate them at the finish line with medal of completion.

Runners came from all over the country; just under a third of those came to run the full marathon, while the rest ran the 13.1 mile half marathon. There were experienced marathoners and first timers alike. One female marathon runner was celebrating her 50 marathon in 50 states! Some runners came in pairs, cheering each other on through the 26.2 miles, others relied on the many enthusiastic spectators for encouragement through the race. The atmosphere at the race was one of devoted support of the runners and deep admiration for the beautiful Kiawah Island course that followed one of the many bike paths through the preserved and protected natural beauty of the island.

Kiawah Island has long set a positive example of sustainability and preservation of the natural habitats and environment. Their race plan was no different, with a “green initiative” strategy in place Kiawah Island carried out every detail of the race from planning to break down in a sustainable and environmentally safe way. Charleston Waterkeeper is always thrilled when we get the chance to work with and learn from leaders whose business practices parallel our own mission of protection and preservation.

Volunteering at this race was a first for us at CWK and we left with a little “runner’s high” of our own. From our pre-dawn volunteer meet-up to watching with pride and awe as the runners passed over the finish line, the entire day was filled with opportunities to watch and share the courage, kindness, and enthusiasm that is our community.

Special thanks to Rachel Herold and the MESSA students who invited us to join their volunteer team!  Also, to Scott Fister and the devoted Kiawah Island Resort Recreation Department for hosting all of us and for their dedication to sustainability and environmental protection. Finally a huge congratulations to all the incredible runners who came out and inspired us all!

– Natalie Taylor, Volunteer Coordinator