Area runners are getting the chance to do something that has never been done before: 25 lucky runners will have an opportunity to race on Little Tybee Island.
The Little Tybee Conquest will take place Aug. 17, and race director Dan Hernandez is bringing his conservationist's heart to yet another local project.
Hernandez founded Run 4 a Reason with the dual goal to put together running events and help out worthy causes. His group founded the Ledesma Sports Medicine Savannah Rails to Trails 50K race in January and raised $10,000 to help with restoration costs for the 6-mile McQueen's Island Historic Trail.
"If I make any money on this race, I'll donate the proceeds to the Georgia chapter of The Nature Conservancy," Hernandez said. "They played a big role in making Little Tybee a protected island."
According to Hernandez, the problem with doing something for the first time is that you get hit with unexpected expenses, which is why he may not have any proceeds to donate this time around.
"I have to transport everything by boat," he said. "I have to take out a portable toilet. I did that mainly for the female runners. I also had to transport a privacy tent for the toilet. Logistics are a pain and this has been a very expensive race to put together."
Another reason money is tight is due to the limited amount of runners who are allowed to register for the race. It took almost three months for Hernandez to get the green light from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and they agreed to the race as long as no more than 25 runners participated.
"No one has ever requested to put on a race at Little Tybee," Hernandez explained. "There was no protocol in place with the DNR, and they wanted to ensure that the next people helped protect the island and not destroy this protected island."
Participants in the Little Tybee Conquest will complete the 10.6 mile out-and-back course that runs along the coastline of the island, but Hernandez did a test run of the race several weeks ago with several of his running partners and discovered that only about only about 8.6 miles of the course are on land. The other two miles are comprised of three separate channels that participants will have to wade and swim through.
"The third channel is very challenging," Hernandez said. "It's about 1/3 mile wide and there's no way to get around without swimming it."
Hernandez suggests participants bring a life vest and flippers to help navigate the water portions of the race.
"We'll also have people in kayaks near the channels with life preservers to toss to help anyone that may find themselves in trouble," he said.
But Hernandez's favorite part of the race is the short stint through Tree Beach, an area littered with dead trees.
"It's a very mystical kind of place and a very cool part of the race," he said. "I've had some people ask if it's okay to just walk, and it is. This race is for different kinds of people. It's for competitive runners and for people who want to experience something new."
Hernandez does have one rule for the participants: "At the end of the race, I want everyone to stroll around to pick up at least one piece of trash.
"I have a motto that I started back in my backpacking and rock climbing days - leave the place better than you found it," Hernandez said. "I wanted to incorporate that motto into the race."
But how are participants supposed to get to Little Tybee?
"You can kayak there at your own expense," Hernandez said. "But Captain Randy (of Savannah Maritime Academy) is running a water taxi for $20."
The taxi service and packet pick-up will begin at 7:30 a.m. Packet pick-up ends at 8:30 a.m. and a pre-race meeting will take place at 8:45 a.m., where Hernandez will emphasize the need to be careful on the water crossings. The race begins at 9 a.m. after the playing of the the national anthem.
Hernandez said he anticipates faster runners to complete the race in about an hour or hour and a half and slower participants will take about three hours or longer. All participants will receive a towel with the race logo with their $50 entry fee, and finishers will receive a plaque to commemorate the historic race. Special awards go to top male and female finishers.
Hernandez said about 15 people have signed up, so there is room for more. Deadline to register is at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 14. Sign up here.
Hernandez said he hopes this race is just the beginning.
"I want to start doing more of these events," he said.
Race 4 a Reason is also sponsoring the Chase the Sun Ultra on Sept. 21 to benefit Liam's Land Foundation.
IF YOU GO
What: Little Tybee Conquest
When: 9 a.m. Aug. 17
Where: Little Tybee Island
Race course: 10.6 mile out-and-back run on sandy beach and wade/swim with three channel crossings
Info: danhernandez.com, 912-398-9941, firstname.lastname@example.org