A Taste of Beaufort 5K: Running through history
By Shannon Roberts | It was a beautiful morning for a run. Almost 200 runners gathered at the grassy field on the Freedom Mall between Bay Street and the Downtown Marina on the Beaufort River Saturday morning for the Taste of Beaufort 5K Bridge Run.
Just across the street, an 1844 antebellum mansion looked on, showing off its majestic columns and double verandahs. This run represents all that is wonderful about Beaufort. Antebellum homes, streets so beautiful they put them in the movies, the surrounding saltwater marshes and rivers, and centurion live oaks. Not to mention the amazing food and festivities featured at the ensuing Taste of Beaufort events.
Rob Fyfe from Palmetto Running Company called the runners to the starting line to prepare for the start of the 15th annual Taste of Beaufort 5k. Beeps of syncing GPS watches filled the 60-degree salt air as folks of all ages stretched and jumped with pre-race anticipation. With a blast of the air horn they were off, running down historic Bay Street, past quaint storefronts and 150 year old buildings. This is the very same street that Kevin Kline and William Hurt jogged in the 80s flick, The Big Chill.
The course then took a hard right, sending the runners up and over the most beautiful bridge in Beaufort, the Woods Memorial swing bridge. Completely closed to traffic, the thrill of running down the middle of this famous span is unique to Beaufort’s 5K bridge runs. Bridges represent “hills” to coastal southern runners. Their incline offers a challenge to the calf muscles, a rarity due to the Lowcountry’s lack of natural hills. Bridge runs are particularly attractive to those looking for an extra bit of difficulty on the course; and this over and back route offers two uphills and two downhills.
About 10 years after the filming of the Big Chill, Tom Hanks ran over the Woods Memorial bridge in the 1994 film Forrest Gump during his epic coast-to-coast run across the United States. In true ultra-runner fashion, Gump donned his famous beard and red trucker hat. “I just felt like running,” he told reporters in the scene, uttering one of the lines in the runner-enthusiast catalog of famous quotes. Another famous film, “The Great Santini” features the Woods bridge as the family of Bull Meecham crossed (the wrong way) into Beaufort as they moved to their new home in Ravenel.
The view–and the run uphill– on the bridge was literally breathtaking. Water everywhere, broken up by swaths of spartina grass and moored boats in the Ladys Island Marina to the left and Downtown Marina to the right. This morning provided particularly calm, reflective waters. On the bridge summit, runners were engulfed in blue Lowcountry sky; both the real sky and the one reflected back at them by the Beaufort River. Ospreys swirled about, warning everyone to stay clear of their nest on the bridge pillar.
Once across the bridge, runners passed the former site of Whitehall plantation, originally established in 1790, and its centuries-old live oaks. Then the course took another right onto Meridian Road, where the Spanish Moss draped oaks provided welcome shady tunnel on the sunny morning. About a quarter mile down Meridian, volunteers handed runners water as they u-turned, and headed back the way they came. The Meridian section makes for a fun part of the run, as participants pass each other at the turnaround, high-fiving and cheering as they go.
The second half takes runners once more over the bridge and back down Bay Street. They kicked it in over the finish line as Rob announced the finishers to the crowd of spectators.
Tim Price, of Fripp Island took first place overall, with a scorching time of 17:47. He was hard to miss as he flew ahead of the field in his lucky American flag shorts and bandana. Second place was secured by David Robinson with a time of 19:09, followed by third place finisher, John Sanford in 19:37.
Winners of this event don’t get medals. Winners received a blue crab sculpture as a trophy, a very unique and cool piece of hardware indeed. That plays into the fact that, again, this isn’t your ordinary race.
The Taste of Beaufort 5K was a very well-organized race on a closed-road, thus a family-friendly course. There are few places where a relatively simple race can offer such beauty, history, and culture in 3.1 miles. Not to mention the opportunity to stick around for the foodie-friendly Taste of Beaufort where patrons can purchase smaller portions of Beaufort’s best restaurants’ best fare.
Combining great food with a great running course is a sure-fire way to put on a great race. Get this one on your race calendar for 2015. The Taste of Beaufort 5K will be around for another 15 years… guaranteed.
For dozens of photos of the Taste of Beaufort 5K Bridge Run, visit our Photo Gallery.
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