The Save the Light Half Marathon is the third major half-marathon on Charleston’s winter running calendar. After the Kiawah Half Marathon in December and the Charleston Half Marathon in January, the Save the Light Half Marathon takes place on Folly Beach in early February. For 2023, the race takes place on Saturday, February 4 at 8:00am, and registration is open through Monday, January 30.
There is also a 5k option, and the shorter-distance race also starts at 8:00am. Last year, a total of 668 runners crossed the finish line—251 in the half marathon and 417 in the 5k.
The Half Marathon Course
The Save the Light Half Marathon starts at the Folly Beach Pier and heads north on E. Arctic Avenue for about 1.5 miles. The course then makes a left followed by a quick right to continue north on E. Ashley Avenue to the turnaround point at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. Runners will come back down E. Ashley Avenue before making a right and then a quick right onto E. Cooper Avenue, then following the signs to return to E. Arctic Avenue via two quick left turns for the second loop of the course. After the second loop, runners will turn right onto E. Arctic Avenue toward the finish line.
The half marathon has aid stations at the intersection of E. Cooper Avenue and 7th Street as well as the mile 11 marker.
The 5k Course
The Save the Light 5k starts at the Folly Beach Pier and heads north on E. Arctic Avenue. Runners and walkers will make a left on E. 12th Street and then another left on E. Cooper Avenue at approximately the halfway point. Runners will head south on E. Cooper Avenue past the 2-mile marker before turning left on E. 6th Street and then turning right on E. Arctic Avenue for their sprint to the finish.
Runners in the 5k race will share the aid station at the intersection of E. Cooper Avenue and 7th Street with half marathoners.
5 Tips for Running the Save the Light Half Marathon or 5k
Are you thinking about running the Save the Light Half Marathon or 5k at Folly Beach? If so, here are five tips to keep in mind:
1. Get There Early
Parking at Folly Beach can be challenging. Even though it is the offseason, you can still expect to end up hunting for a spot if you show up an hour before the race. To give yourself the best chance of finding a spot quickly, get there early. Once you get on the island, turn right on W. Cooper Avenue or W. Arctic Avenue and start looking for a spot. While W. Arctic Avenue is closest to the start line, you’ll have to pay to park here. If you go all the way to W. Arctic Avenue (at the end of Center Street where it runs into the Tides hotel parking lot), your best bet is to turn right on W. 2nd Street and look for off-street parking. Parking on the side of the road is free (just pay attention to the signs), but you have to make sure you get all four tires in the sand.
2. Line Up with the Appropriate Pace Group
The Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k races take place on the two-lane roads of Folly Island, so passing can be difficult in the early stages of the race. With this in mind, it is a good idea to try to line up with the appropriate pace group (you can view last year’s results to see where you might fit in). If you line up too far back in the pack, you will likely lose time as you try to pass those in front of you. If you line up too near the front, you will impede faster runners who are going for the overall win, an age-group win, or a personal record (PR).
3. Plan for Temperatures to Rise
While it may be chilly when you get to Folly Beach early in the morning, it will most likely be warming up by 9:30am or 10:00am. So, while you don’t want to start too cold, you don’t want to get too warm during your race, either. If you are coming with your family or other spectators, consider wearing an overlayer that you can hand off a few minutes before the race begins.
4. Wear Your Fast Road Shoes
The Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k take place on smooth, flat, and mostly straight roads. With this in mind, your fast road shoes will be your best bet. If this is your first half marathon or 5k, look for a pair of road shoes that provides enough cushion for your planned time on feet but that still provides a responsive feel.
5. Be Ready for the Wind
While you will be protected by buildings and vegetation at the start of the half marathon, there is a good chance that you will get hit with some wind as you head up E. Ashley Avenue toward the turnaround point at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. If you do, just be prepared and know that it will pass. You will get back out of the wind around miles 5.5 and 11, which means that you’ll have a calm and fast 2.1 miles to the finish.
What To Do After Your Race
After the race, you can stick around for food and awards at the Tides hotel. Runners can also take a cool-down walk on the recently-renovated Folly Beach Pier and grab brunch or an early lunch at one of the many restaurants located on or near Center Street (the main road into Folly Beach). If you found free off-street parking, you can stay all day and rest your legs on the beach. There are several public access points; and, in addition to the temporary restrooms at the starting line, there are public facilities at the Folly Beach Pier and W. Third Street.
FAQs: Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k on Folly Island
Where and when are packet pickup for the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k?
Registered runners can pick up their packets at the Tides hotel Friday, February 3 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm or on race day between 6:30a.m. and 7:30a.m. Race-day registration is not available.
Are the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k races competitive?
The half marathon is the more competitive of the two Save the Light races. In 2022, the half marathon winner crossed the finish line in 1:14:20, with a pace of 5:40 per mile. The race was canceled in 2021, and in 2020 the winner’s time was 1:13:50 (a pace of 5:38 per mile).
For the 5k distance, the winning time in 2022 was 17:47 (a pace of 5:44 per mile). In 2020, the 5k winner ran a 5:30 pace for an elapsed time of 16:33.
Where Do the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k Races Start?
The Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k races start at the same location (and at the same time) at the Folly Beach Pier. Runners, walkers, and spectators should plan to arrive early to ensure that they are able to find parking and get to the starting line before 8:00am.
Can You Walk the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k Races?
The CCPRC says that the Save the Light 5k is open to runners and walkers, but the half marathon is a “run only” event. However, at the time of writing, it has not published a cut-off time for either race online. Strollers are allowed in the 5k, with the CCPRC instructing participants with strollers to start behind the runners and other walkers.
Are Dogs Allowed at the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k?
No, the CCPRC states that pets are not allowed on the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k courses. While spectators can bring their dogs to the beach, they must comply with Charleston County’s leash ordinance and other applicable rules.
Can Kids Run the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k?
The CCPRC allows parents to register their children from the Save the Light Half Marathon and 5k races starting at age 8. According to the race website, runners between the ages of 8 and 15 must be accompanied by an adult throughout the race.
Can You Get a PR at the Save the Light Half Marathon?
The Save the Light Half Marathon is an USATF-certified event; and, with its flat and straight course, it is a good race for pursuing a PR. The author of this article ran a PR at the race in 2020. If you are going for a PR, definitely make sure you place yourself appropriately in the starting corral, as the course will be crowded for the first mile-plus. From there, the race should open up, and you should be able to run your own race the rest of the way.