This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Critz Tybee Run Fest.
This two-day festival with participants flocking from every corner of the U.S. started out much differently than you may think.
Let's take a step back in history, shall we? Many moons ago, the Shriners produced a race called the Tybee Marathon and Dale Critz Jr. was a frequent runner. In 2008, due to a lack of sponsorships, it looked like the race may have run its course. That's when Critz stepped up, made a phone call to the mayor of Tybee (a fellow runner) for his blessing and ultimately decided to take over the marathon.
His first order of business was simple: adding a post-race celebration with beer! The race was a success that year (not just because of the beer) and it kept growing. Critz and his team produced the race for a few more years before making additional changes, resulting in increased participation and solid community support.
After seeing firsthand the positive impact the race had on the community, Critz aimed to get folks to stay longer. In 2012, the Run Fest was born, a two-day event with five races totaling a full marathon. It was the first of its kind and runners started to take notice, traveling from all over to stay on Tybee Island and participate in this unique event.
But there's something even more special about the Critz Tybee Run Fest besides its unique schedule. Critz made a commitment all those years ago to donate every bit of the accumulated net proceeds to area nonprofits.
Yes, that's right - all accumulated net profits go right back into our communities. The recipients change each year but there's a common thread among all of them. Critz selects organizations throughout the Coastal Empire that promote education and healthy living. These grants are made possible through race entries and sponsorships from a variety of race partners. Since inception, Critz Tybee Run Fest has donated more than half a million dollars to these organizations. Now that's something to raise a glass to!
So, what's new for 2018? "Lots of added value," says Critz.
For starters, each race has a finisher's medal. In year's past, participants would have to complete all five races to receive a race medal.
Another new addition is a race app. In partnership with Ultramax Sports, participants and spectators can track race progress, order gear and even upload selfies from the course using the app. Additionally, half marathon participants and those who participate in all five races will receive a moisture-wicking race shirt. And race photos are free for all participants this year.
But the changes don't stop there. Runners can expect to see some modifications to the course as well. The 2.8-mile beach run will now start on Butler Avenue, then continue south on the beach.
And lastly, there are two post-race parties, because one just isn't enough! The first post-race party will take place at the finish line near the Tybee Lighthouse following the Kiddie Run and 5K on Friday night. Food will be provided by North Beach Bar & Grill, Byrd Cookie Company will be giving away goodies and of course, post-race beers will be available (for those 21 and older).
On Saturday, The Collins Quarter, Great Harvest and Lighthouse Pizza will provide food and beer at the finish line. (Look for the big tent.) Want to sample some local island fare? Many restaurants are offering runner specials, including Coco's Sunset Grille and A-J's Dockside Restaurant.
Lastly, Critz notes that a race of this size wouldn't be possible without some local help.
"Support from the Tybee community is strong, as is the support from our Savannah partners," he says.
When asked if he's planning to participate this year, Critz says he always runs at least one race. This year he says it will most likely be the 5K and half marathon. If you spot him, be sure to congratulate him on 10 successful years!
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IF YOU GO
What: Critz Tybee Run Fest
When: Feb. 2-3
Where: Tybee Island
Cost: Registration costs vary