2016 Governor's Cup Road Race course preview
After 44 years, the Governor’s Cup Road Race, one of the oldest road races in the Southeast, is trying something new. Several somethings, actually.
The race is Saturday, May 14 and includes a kids’ fun run, a 5K and a half-marathon. This year, there is a new date, a new course and an additional run called the Main Street Mile.
Traditionally held in October, the race moved to May because “it was hard to continually dodge football games,” said Rick Noble, one of the race’s organizers.
From now on, the race will be held on the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.
The course has been changed to pass more major attractions in Columbia and crosses the Congaree River for mileage in Cayce and West Columbia. Spirit corps, local groups from bagpipers to cheerleaders to steel drum bands, will be stationed about every half-mile to encourage runners.
“One of the main things we wanted to do is show off Columbia,” Noble said, adding that out-of-town runners often come to a city to sightsee as well as race.
The new Main Street Mile, on the night before the race, is also a fun way to encourage runners to come spend the night in Columbia before the half-marathon, Noble said.
Half-marathon runners will go through downtown Columbia, the Vista, West Columbia, Five Points, Shandon and the University of South Carolina on race day.
Go Columbia previewed the new course, and below we’ve shared our insights and maybe some little-known facts about what runners will see along the way.
The U.S. Post Office at 1600 Hampton Street was the original site of Columbia College. The women’s college was first called Columbia Female College and opened for classes in 1859. After a fire, it moved to its current location on North Main Street in 1905.
Arguably one of prettiest stretches of the race, Richland Street shows off the old houses in the heart of downtown Columbia’s historic district. You’ll pass the Seibels House with its Doric columns, built circa-1796, and the Mann-Simons site, with its quaint house and white “ghost” structures. This street dead ends at the Governor’s Mansion, aka Gov. Nikki Haley’s pad.
Olympic Trials finish
From Richland Street, look right as you cross Main Street. In 1996, Columbia hosted the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. The finish line was between the Bank of America and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Jenny Spangler won the race in a stunning victory, with a personal best time of 2:29:54. On that day, in front of a crowd of 50,000 people on Main Street, Spangler became the first 1996 U.S. Olympian to qualify for a U.S. team, male or female, in any event.
This Cayce park is not very visible from Knox Abbott Drive, yet it’s looking good after some recent renovations. The park is named after the Guignard family (pronounced GIN-yard, with a hard G, as in “get”), which for more than 200 years has been a local force to reckon with when it comes to land ownership.
Blossom Street bridge
As you near the bridge, Cayce Fire Department firefighters will have a truck parked and ready to spray you with a cooling mist.
After the Blossom Street bridge, the course loops you through the 20 red brick and white-columned houses in the University of South Carolina Greek Village. The university is about 20 percent Greek. Zeta Tau Alpha was the first sorority house to be built. Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Zeta Tau Alpha were the first frat houses.
Saluda Avenue hill
Prepare yourself for this .3-mile climb around mile 9. Girls on the Run will be cheering from the bottom of the hill, and A.C. Flora High School cheerleaders will be egging you on as you near the top.
Heyward Street house
As you head into Shandon, enjoy the glorious shade provided by the plentiful trees, and keep an eye out for the house on the right corner at Woodrow and Heyward streets. In 1999, Gov. Jim Hodges lived there with his family temporarily while the Governor’s Mansion was renovated. While nice and tidy-looking, the 4,200-square-foot house doesn’t compare to the sprawling 16,500-square-foot mansion.
After Shandon, you’ll go down Devine Street and into Five Points. You’ll hook a right on Laurens Street after running under the railroad trestle. The course used to go up Blossom and Sumter streets instead of turning here, but people complained about the race ending on such hilly note. Laurens Street will take you uphill, too, but for not nearly as long.
The end of the races takes you down Pendleton Street and skirts the USC Horseshoe, but you’ll probably be too homed in on the finish to notice much. Town Theatre members will be singing and cheering for you here. You should be able to see the finish line once you cross Main Street by Which Wich.
Once you’re done, Flying Saucer will open at 11 a.m. for those wanting some celebratory suds.
If you go
44th annual Governor’s Cup Road Race
When: The half-marathon starts at 7 a.m. Saturday, May 14. The 5K run/walk starts at 7:30 a.m. The kids’ fun run starts at 8:30 a.m.
Where: The start line for the half-marathon and the 5K is in front of House of Fabrics at 1312 Main St. The kids’ fun run starts at the corner of Park and Pendleton streets.
The 5K finish line is at 1110 Park St. near Flying Saucer. The half-marathon finish line is near 1030 Pendleton Street behind Music Farm.
Cost: $80, half-marathon; $35, 5K; $10, kids’ fun run. Late registration is 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. at the Expo at Hilton Columbia Center, 924 Senate St. There is no day-of registration.
Main Street Mile: 7 p.m. Friday, May 13 at 1801 Main St.