For most of the past three decades, the bookend to a year of running in Charleston was the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon and Half Marathon.
It was fitting to have a marathon, the Charleston area's only one until 2011, conclude the year, even though most ran the half. The event also wrapped up what I long called the triple crown of Charleston's biggest fall races, starting with the Turkey Day Run on Thanksgiving Day and continuing with the Reindeer Run on the first Saturday of December.
This year, both of those races set finisher records of 6,563 and 2,406, respectively. Last year, the Kiawah half marathon set a finisher record of 2,747.
Until two years ago, Kiawah owned the second Saturday of December for the athletic set in the Lowcountry. But with the kind of numbers posted by Turkey Day, Reindeer and Kiawah in our free market economy, supply is destined to keep up with demand.
So this Saturday, there are five other race events, most variations on the 5K theme.
Jingle Bell Run
The Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, at 9 a.m. Saturday at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, can be considered locally as Reindeer "partie deux," seizing the Christmas holiday theme with a 5K timed race, a 5K walk, a .75-mile Rudolph Run and 100-meter Dancer Dash.
If holiday junkies want more, Jingle Bell promises another heavy dose of the red and green, costumed kids and dogs, and, of course, jingle bells.
The event is one of more than 100 held nationally by the Arthritis Foundation to raise money for and awareness of the disease. The fees are $35 for the 5K run, $30 for the walk, $20 for the Rudolph Run and $15 for the Dasher Dash, the latter two are geared toward the kids.
Early packet pick-up is 5-7 p.m. Friday at TrySports in Mount Pleasant.
Run or Dye
The color run phenomenon returns to the Exchange Park in Ladson on Saturday with a "5K" that's more about getting blasted with "eco-friendly, plant-based cornstarch dye" at every kilometer than nailing a personal best record.
According to the website, Run or Dye will bring "seasonal dye, which will leave you looking like you just stepped out of a holiday wonderland."
The fee is $57 per person or $52 per person on teams of four or more.
Happy Tails 5K
Keeping in the fun, charitable mode, the Happy Tails 5K and Dog Mile Fun Run will be a dog-friendly fundraiser Saturday for the Francis R. Willis Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. and the mile run at 9:30 a.m. The event will be at Miler Country Club in Summerville.
Last Chance 50K
For those wanting a bit more of a physical challenge, the second Last Chance 50K will be at 7 a.m. Saturday in Cordesville. That's 31.1 miles on the trails of the Francis Marion National Forest.
Local trail run organizer Chad Haffa says, as of Monday, about 100 people had signed up for the event, either as individuals or members of two- or four-person teams.
The cost is $75 for individuals, $45 per person for a four-person relay and $55 per person for a two-person team.
If all these races give you sticker shock and you just want a no-frills chance to race without wasting a morning, you have an option: The Bulldog Breakaway Christmas 5K at 8 a.m. Saturday at The Citadel. The cost is $20 unless you want a T-shirt, then it's $5 more.
And finally, Kiawah
Back to where we started with perhaps one of the finest race events in Charleston: the Kiawah Marathon, which marks its 36th year Saturday.
Unlike year's past when Kiawah's half-marathon sold out in a week, registration for the half and full may remain open during packet pick-up 4-7 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday at the East Beach Conference Center on Kiawah Island. Late registration is $125.
Race day packet pick-up resumes 6:30-7:45 a.m. Saturday.
Race director Liz King says runners are coming in from 45 states, Canada, Germany and the Bahamas.
She adds that among the runners on Saturday will be 48 active duty military service members who will be wearing a special race bib featuring the American flag.
Runners also are asked to bring at least two canned food items for the Charleston Area Senior Center and new or gently used school supplies for the local Teachers' Supply Closet.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.