Not only does the Governor’s Cup Road Race showcase Columbia – passing major attractions downtown as well as in Cayce and West Columbia – it showcases the area’s runners.
From elite racers with shoe sponsorships to Average Joes in old sneakers, everyone is welcome to toe the line at the start and enjoy being cheered on at the finish.
Race events for the 45th Governor’s Cup start Friday, May 19 and include a kids’ fun run and the Main Street Mile. The 5K and half-marathon are on Saturday, May 20.
Here, we highlight four participating runners with inspiring stories.
Favorite place to run: Riverfront Park
Shawanna White dashed to the finish of the Governor’s Cup half marathon last year, finishing third overall in the women’s division. This year, she’s feeling faster than ever.
“On a good day I’d love to win,” she said.
An elite runner sponsored by Skechers Performance, White races almost every weekend and hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials this year. This summer, she plans to increase her training to 90 miles per week.
“I like the challenge of seeing how good I can get,” she said.
As the Governor’s Cup is on her home turf, White expects to use the familiar terrain to her advantage.
“It’s a challenging course but you get to see so many different parts of Columbia,” she said.
Favorite place to run: Lake Murray dam
Mike Lambert smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 50 years. It took a massive heart attack in 2013 for him to quit.
In addition to kicking the habit, his doctor told him he needed to lose weight, start exercising and eat right.
“I accepted the fact that if I wanted to stay here, I needed to do that,” he said. “I call it my second chance.”
Lambert started slowly, working on losing a pound a week, and eventually lost 65 pounds. Then he set his sights on running a 5K. Once he accomplished that, he set his sights on a half marathon.
“Last year at the Governor’s Cup, I finished last. I’m not fast, but that’s not why I do it,” Lambert said. “I’m so excited I’m still here. I’m just having fun.”
Favorite place to run: Shandon or the Timmerman Trail in Cayce
Eric Ashton is somewhat of a Governor’s Cup legend, having run the race 17 times since 1990 and won first place overall eight times.
He finished sixth overall last year and easily won his age group by almost 7 minutes.
“The ability to measure myself against not only the best in the Midlands but in South Carolina and the region is the biggest draw for me,” he said. “It’s the iconic race in Columbia.”
In addition to Saturday’s half marathon, Ashton is running the mile race on Friday.
While he ran collegiately, he never pursued running professionally, choosing instead to pursue a masters degree in exercise physiology.
But that didn’t stop him from training like a professional.
“It’s one thing to go out and exercise, but to train like a professional athlete requires a different level of devotion and intensity,” he said. “I think, ‘What do people see in me when I’m doing the sport?’ Hopefully it makes an impression.”
Favorite place to run: Crooked Creek Park in Chapin
On the final hill of the Governor’s Cup five miler in 2014, Mike Lanni couldn’t catch his breath. He had to stop, and blamed his fatigue on the incline.
“I had trained hard for hills and had felt great training on that hill before. I was disappointed but didn’t think much of it,” he said.
But it wasn’t the hill.
Soon, every time Lanni went out to run he’d feel worse and worse quicker and quicker. Eventually he couldn’t even go one mile without stopping to catch his breath.
In January 2015, he went to see his doctor. The next week, he had quintuple bypass surgery.
“You just don’t feel like you’re ever going to recover,” he said.
He did, of course, first by walking in rehab, then walking briskly, and eventually running.
“They said I didn’t need to change my diet or exercise. It was my genes for me.”
For Lanni, it underscored that living a healthy lifestyle didn’t necessarily mean he was entirely well.
“It’s important for those that are in shape to keep track of things and be aware of your situation, because it could sneak up on you, too.”
Lanni’s first race after surgery and recovery was a return to the Governor’s Cup five-miler in 2015. He’ll return Saturday for the 5K.
Governor’s Cup races
MAIN STREET MILE 7 p.m. (open) and 7:30 p.m. (elite) Friday, May 19. Starts and finishes on Main Street.
KIDS’ FUN RUN 6:30 p.m. Friday May 19, on the Main Street Mile course.
HALF-MARATHON 7 a.m. Saturday, May 20. Start is at 1312 Main St. Finish is at 1110 Park St.
5K RUN/WALK 7:30 a.m. Saturday, May 20 Same start/finish as half-marathon.
There will be a post-run celebration on Saturday at Tin Roof with a free draft beer from Palmetto Brewery for Governor’s Cup participants 21 years and older, plus food discounts and live entertainment from the Blue Pickups from 11a.m.-1 p.m.