Hell Hole Swamp 10k

Although my time for this race has never been great, I always have a great time running this race!

The Hell Hole Swamp Gator Trot, "A 10K Run and Walk through the Francis Marion National Forest. Sightings of alligators, snakes, boar and wild turkeys (but no lions, tigers and bears oh my) are possible." - from the web site (I love it)...

I am always excited to do this race, but I am even more excited to tell all my friends about it :)  This race is thirty-five years old and is part of the Hell Hole Swamp Festival that has been going on for thirty-nine years.

The race takes place in the small town of Jamestown, South Carolina.  Directions to the race are as follows: "middle of town".

The check-in is at the town courthouse.  There is one public restroom for men and women (the clerk of court lets women use the office restroom too).  On the outside of the courtroom there is a sign that states, "Please be quite while court is in session" - really.

There are tons of people lining the road before the race starts (not to see or cheer us on - they are there to get a good spot for the parade that starts three hours after the race!).  I'll get back to the parade in just a minute.

The race starts around the corner from the courthouse on Highway 17A.  The police are there and people are standing in the road, but the road is not actually closed to traffic so cars (trucks) are still driving through the crowd.  Everyone moves to the starting line (three soccer cones) and waits for the last minute instructions from the race director.  The race starts with a shotgun blast (no joke - a real shotgun), Mr. James Pipkins, who always started the race pasted away last year so his son Roy Pipkin did it this year...

The 10k turns right from Highway 17A (after passing a dead snake in the road) to a dirt road in the Francis Marion Forest.  The road is well used and you basically have to find the tire rut you are conformable with and stick with it.  This year the weather was hot and humid, but there was a nice breeze on this part of the road.  The course turns right again to another dirt road where you cross railroad tracks (no lights or cross bars).  The last turn is another right that takes you back to Highway 41 and finishes in front of the courthouse.

While on the last part of the course you get to pass all the fire trucks, Shriners, beauty pageant winners (Teen Hell Hole Swamp, Baby Hell Hole Swamp, etc...) that are part of the parade (one of my favorite parts of the race).

This year the race organizers made it even more special by adding a finisher's medal!!!

I ran slower than I wanted (50:56), but two minutes faster than I ran last year.  I have always wanted a trophy from this race, but they are hard to get.  Only the top runner in each age group and the top ten runners get the prized Gator Head trophy.  A runner (Annie P.) that I talked into running the race came in first in her age group and took home this awesome piece of hardware!  I have come in second in the my age group, but never first.  Maybe next year...

After the race there is an awards ceremony at the "shack" where the festival is set up.  Just walking over to the shack is an experience.  If you are not from the South, the number of Confederate flags may be a little overwhelming.  The race director pulls up his van, loaded with gator heads, and reads a poem that he writes during the race each year (my absolute favorite part of the Hell Hole Swamp race).  Then he butchers everyone's name as he calls up the winners (he only knew some of the times) and hands out the trophies (from the organizer - the gator heads are from a farm in Florida that would have thrown them away so please no "pita" protests").

The parade starts right after the awards so you either
stay for the whole thing or you run to your car and try to get out of town before it starts.

You really have to see the whole thing to have a true appreciation of this race.  No doubt about it, this is a cultural experience...

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