The lilt of bagpipes and the beat of drums might take some of the drudgery out of the brutal last climb of the Governors Cup Half Marathon next month.
Or just when boredom of one foot following the other for a hour begins to take its toll on runners brains, the kids from the Double Dutch Forces will toss in a little jump rope-inspired enthusiasm.
For the first time, official Spirit Corps groups will be stationed throughout the 13.1-mile course to boost the mood for runners. The Governors Cup is one of the oldest road races in the Southeast, and it went through a lull in participation for about a decade as runners opted for events offering more bells and whistles.
Race organizers began to heighten the overall experience in the past few years. This years improvements include individually sculpted trophies and 13 Spirit Corps groups spread out throughout the half marathon course.
The locations for all of the groups havent been set yet, but the Robert Burns Society of the Midlands will set up a few blocks from the finish. So runners coming up the hill toward USCs Horseshoe will have two goals find out where those bagpipe songs are coming from, and then on to the finish line.
Kimberly Wolfe, a board member of the Robert Burns Society, suggested members put on their Scottish kilts and join the fun. In addition to boosting the morale of the runners one of whom is her husband, Matt the bagpipe and drum players will raise awareness about the society, which celebrates all things Scottish.
I hope its going to help my husband, Wolfe said. Hes going to hear those pipes, and hes going to start trucking.
Wolfe expects about 10 musicians from the group will be available for the hour or two runners will be on their section of the course. Theyre used to playing for long periods while marching in parades, but this time theyll be standing still and the parade of runners will be passing them.
There will be plenty of variety among the Spirit Corps sights and sounds. Dreher High School musicians will take over one block alternating between standard marching band and the steel drum group.
Prefer horns? The Zeigarnik Quartet, saxophone players from the University of South Carolina, will occupy one Spirit Zone.
The Double Dutch Forces will supply a boost of high energy at one point along the course. The Columbia College Dance Company plans to make posters and cheer runners as they pass.
And for a real distraction, theres the Columbia Community Drum Circle and Luna Trix. These folks have a blast while they play drums or swirl hula hoops.
Late this week, race organizers still had a couple of Spirit Corps spots open for the Nov. 9 race. If youre interested, go to www.governorscupsc.org.