By Jackson Cavanaugh
BAMSouth.com Contributing Writer
The place to be for fans and enthusiasts of marathons, half-marathons, 5ks and 10ks is none other than Savannah, Georgia. Yes, that’s right. With over two dozen races completed during the 2013 calendar year and just as many slated for 2014, runners can delight in what the Southeast Atlantic coast—including Savannah and the surrounding area—has to offer.
Although some of the races are smaller in nature with just a few hundred entries and casually put together, several are high profile events, well-organized and draw thousands of participants and spectators. Many of the running events also use chip timing for increased accuracy and are certified as accurate by USA Track and Field, which is the United States national governing body for the sports of track and field, cross country running, road running and racewalking.
Take for instance the annual Savannah River Bridge Run 5k and 10k,which took place recently in historic downtown Savannah. The event consisted of the aforementioned 5k and 10k, as well as a “double-pump” event that combined the 5k and 10k event.
Both races drew over 5,500 entries, hundreds of spectators and closed down several streets in the downtown morning for most of the day. There was live music, food and drink available once the post-race party began. Proceeds from the event were donated to benefit a local cancer research and treatment center and local businesses benefited from the influx of people.
Savannah also now hosts an annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which falls under the control of the Competitor Group, located in San Diego. This major event takes place every November and is another big draw, bringing in thousands of competitors and spectators and provides another great boon to local businesses. In addition, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon alone has contributed almost $300 million to charities nationwide such as the ASPCA and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
These are just two examples amongst several events that highlight how friendly and welcoming the city of Savannah is to competitive runners. The hospitality goes beyond the Hostess City however, as there are numerous races in nearby Beaufort and Hilton Head, both just a short trek across the state line in neighboring South Carolina.
Races such as the Beaufort Shrimp Festival 5k, the Hilton Head Firecracker 5000 5K and the Beaufort Twilight Run 8K all take place no more than an hour’s drive from Savannah and offer much of the same in the ways of amenities such as food, music, drink and contests.
These are also fairly significant races and regularly bring in hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of competitors, spectators and tourists to not only the race city, but the surrounding area as well. On a freelance assignment last weekend covering the Bridge Run, I spoke to numerous people who were from California, Iowa and even from across the Atlantic Ocean from England and France. Most were competitors; others were tourists just checking out the local scene.
More importantly, these people are doing more than just competing in or watching these races—they are spending their dollars at local shops, diners and other businesses. What is good for one city is good for the rest of the area and vice versa.
Those who partake in marathons and other races, as well as those who enjoy watching them should definitely check out Savannah and the surrounding area. The weather is consistently nice, the scenery is beautiful, the history is plentiful and the people are welcoming.
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