CHARLESTON — The first time around is always the hardest when creating a new event.
So is the case for Jessica Engelke and the staff of the Charleston Salmon Run, the only South Coast marathon, which will be held for the second time Saturday. The event also includes a half marathon, 10-kilometer run and 1-mile walk.
“Really within one year, our local runners, it’s on their calendar,” Engelke said. “They know that next year that first weekend in October there’s gonna be a 10K, a half marathon and a marathon."
Started last year to fill the marathon gap in the local run schedule, the Salmon Run aims to bring tourism dollars and exposure to the small fishing village just northeast of Cape Arago.
It was a success in its first year, and even then Engelke was aiming for the Salmon Run to be an annual local event.
Runners can still sign up for the event — online registration ends Friday at 5 p.m. for the marathon, half marathon and walk, but day-of registration is open for the 10K. Prices are $79 for the marathon, $59 for the half marathon, $25 for the 10K and $10 for the mile walk.
The marathon starts at 7:45 a.m., with the half marathon starting at 9:30 a.m. The 10K starts at 10 a.m. and the walk at 10:30 a.m.
The field is an international one. Engelke said that more than 20 states are represented with folks from British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba coming from Canada as well. The SWOCC instructor thinks that they’ll get around 300 participants, which is right about last year’s field.
“Not only are they investing in our community, they’re gonna go back to Manitoba, Canada and talk about the great experiences they had,” Engelke said.
The only significant change this year is the course for the marathon.
Gone are the grueling climbs and nervous descents on Seven Devils Road that started last year's marathon. Instead, this year the marathoners will make two trips out to the end of Cape Arago.
One other change is moving the start to the marina, freeing up traffic and easing movement to and through the village.
“It’ll really free up North Basin Road,” Engelke said.
The route for both the marathon and half marathon hugs the coast and heads out to Cape Arago, where it turns around and heads back toward town. The full marathon route gets most of the way back to Charleston before runners turn and head back out to Cape Arago a second time.
The route is exclusively on the coast, with plentiful ocean views.
“We thought about it for a long time,” Engelke said of the course changes “Runners have a lot of different opinions about how they feel about out-and-back. But we decided since it is the most gorgeous route that you will ever run, if you’re going to run an out-and-back marathon this is the one to do it because you’re gonna get the most scenic views in the United States twice.
“I personally ran the half marathon course the other day and was overwhelmed with emotion on how beautiful it was. I mean, seriously. The sea lions were cheering, and the waves were clapping and (I thought) ‘This is amazing.’ 26.2 miles on this route will be wonderful.”
The 10-kilometer race takes runners through the Bastendorff Beach area. All races start and end in the boat basin.
Like last year, the Salmon Run will run concurrently to OktoberFish, a food and drink festival also in Charleston.
If runners show their bib, they will receive a free adult beverage from the 7 Devils tent. The medals double as bottle openers.
“I’ll tell you this, besides having adequate bathrooms and proper hydration, runners want cool swag,” Engelke said. “They’ll come back for that. So we take that very seriously.”