The Second Annual Amazing Myrtle Beach State Park Challenge Race
Eight miles, twenty challenges, and four hours and 44 minutes after the conch shell was blown at the start of the race, my friend Cathy and I crossed the finish line. And it was an amazing experience!
The first weekend of March marks the annual Amazing Myrtle Beach State Park Challenge Race, and my friend, Cathy, joined me for this adventure while Kelly was out of town. We met at Myrtle Beach State Park a little before 9am (and a breezy 38 degrees Fahrenheit) at one of the beach shelters where we each received a t-shirt and backpacks with items we would need throughout the race: a gallon zip-loc bag, a small snack-sized zip-loc bag with a line drawn across the middle, a pen and a pencil, a State Park sticker, two water bottles, two Band-Aids, an emergency number to call if we got lost or hurt (our cell phones could only be used if it was an emergency), and a map of the park. Our backpacks had our team number on them, Team #5, which had to be worn with our t-shirts, at all times in order to identify us and where we were on the course.
Eleven teams of two participated and there were over 50 volunteers, as well as the Park Rangers, who assisted with the race throughout the day. We were told we had until 4pm to complete our challenges, but we were not told how many challenges there were or what they were. We were read the rules which included that we must keep everything we gathered throughout the race in our zip-loc bag. If we lost anything or did not follow instructions, we would be penalized by adding 30 to 60 minutes to our final time! There were also things that could be done throughout the race that would deduct minutes from our final time – like bonus points. The object was to finish the course in the least amount of time with the least amount of penalties. The Start line was a big cross in the parking lot and we could stand on any side. This is when we realized that each team would be heading in different directions. They blew a conch shell to signal the start of the race and we ripped open our first clue. It told us to go to the overflow campground, join another team, and build a fire! Game on!
Throughout the day we were directed to complete many different activities that one could do at a State Park, activities such as: building a fire and putting it out properly, casting a fishing line into a designated area, throwing horseshoes and a bocce ball, measuring fish and deciding if they were a legal size according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), identifying woodpeckers, sharks, and common birds seen in the area, completing a short obstacle course on one of the playgrounds, roasting a marshmallow to a perfect golden brown, carrying an ocean kayak down the sandy beach, reading historical posters on the park and answering short questions about it, and eating a flavored cricket (notice the pin I am wearing in the picture, it says: “I ate a bug!”). And just in case you want to know, they are very dry and it takes a lot of water to wash the wings out of your mouth!
Each clue we received directed us to a new location at the park: the campground, the overflow campground, one of the nature trails, the pier, one of the boardwalks, the nature/activity center, one of the playgrounds or recreation centers, where we then had to complete a task. We crisscrossed the park for eight miles. We were told it only would have been six miles if we had answered all of the tasks correctly – for instance during one challenge we had to identify the most common woodpecker in the Myrtle Beach, SC area out of three species. Each time we chose the wrong species of woodpecker we were directed to a location across the park where we were told we were wrong and had to go back. Once we identified the right one, we were told where our next clue was. Cathy and I now know, after walking/running at least an extra mile for that one task, that the yellow-bellied sapsucker is the most common woodpecker in the Myrtle Beach, SC area!
Once we crossed the finish line we had to turn in all of our clues, anything we picked up during the race (sometimes we were given tokens after finishing a task) and our snack-sized zip-loc bag full of littered cigarette butts that we collected throughout the park in order to get five minutes deducted from our final time. With all of our time deductions our final time was calculated to be four hours and 27 minutes! The first team crossed the finish line in three hours and 10 minutes, the last team crossed the finish line a little under six hours after the race began. The finish line greeted us with cheers, as well as a table full of fruit, bagels, energy bars, marshmallows, and water. The park shelter nearby also had a fireplace with a roaring fire to warm up by while we waited for the awards ceremony.
All of the park staff and volunteers were enthusiastic and friendly. And all of the teams were friendly and helpful. Cathy and I even teamed up with a mother/daughter team towards the end, helping each other decipher codes and identify what was wrong with a beach scene during one of our challenges.
Each volunteer was awarded a park medal for their efforts during the event. And then each participant was awarded a park medal (a medal cut from the center of a tree). The top three teams were awarded special park medals and a prize. Additional prizes were raffled off to the remaining teams. Prizes included a park pass, a fishing pass, a golf package, campsites at various State Parks around South Carolina, and even a cabin stay at one of the South Carolina State Parks. Our team was called and we received a two-night camping trip to Table Rock State Park!
This was one of the best adventures I have had in the Myrtle Beach area! Cathy and I are excited to take on the Amazing Myrtle Beach State Park Challenge Race again next year! And challenge Kelly (and whomever she chooses to team up with) to this Amazing Park Challenge!
Cost: $50 per team / $25 per person