Want a real adventure race? The ninth Barrier Island ECOthon IS the real thing.

For nearly a decade, the end of October meant more than just Halloween. It also has been the date for the Barrier Island ECOthon.

The ninth annual event will be 9 a.m. Sunday at the Isle of Palms Marina.

Now, talk about “adventure race,” the ECOthon is perhaps the most adventurous in the Lowcountry.

(Dana Beach, the executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, calls the ECOthon “the most beautiful race on the East Coast” and that it is do-able by anyone who is in decent shape.)

Participants launch kayaks from the Isle of Palms Marina and paddle three miles to Dewees Island. After landing on the beach, they run 2.2 miles to the other end, swim a quarter mile across Capers Island to Caper’s Island, run to the other end, where they turn around and repeat the course backward.

Once back at the marina, participants bike to the southern tip (or western tip, depending on your orientation) of Sullivan’s Island and return, for a total of about 18 miles.

A race that involved takes some money. Registration is $90 and a portion goes to support the efforts of Charleston Tibetan Society. Since its origination, the ECOthon has raised and donated $18,500 to the society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The founder and director of the race, Brett Carlson, says he created the ECOthon after developing a deep appreciation of the Lowcountry after “running, riding, swimming and paddling between the barrier islands for about a quarter century.”

The basics

Start: Sunday, October 27, 2013 @ 9:00 AM (EDT)

 Location: Isle of Palms Marina, 80 41st Avenue Isle of Palms , SC 29451

Cost: $90.

Registration Closing Date: Saturday, October 26, 2013 @ 1:22 PM (EDT)


Q&A with Brett Carlson

Q: Brett, I can remember the first time I saw a flyer for the Barrier Island ECOthon. My thoughts were, “This guy is crazy – stringing along an ‘eco-thon’ with people swimming two inlets …. And this won’t last.” Here it is … ninth one will be Oct. 28. Tell me how and why you came up for the idea for this race in the first place.

 A:  I’ve been running, riding, swimming & paddling between the barrier islands of the South Carolina Lowcountry for about a quarter century, and have come to greatly appreciate them coming from Chicago where I was raised. I thought others could appreciate the amazing beauty of Mother Nature around Charleston in a self-propelled adventure, albeit with the help of some tools such as a paddling device, a bike, and some shoes… and in more recent years sometime without shoes, as Dana Beach shared with me last week he is planning on going barefoot for the 10 mile beach run.

When I first shared the idea with my friends, some of them gave me “crazy” looks, but I knew whole heartedly that others would appreciate it too. I took the first step on the ECOthon journey and organized the 0th Annual ECOthon in 2004 which had only 11 participants, but they all loved it, so I have kept it going and will continue to do so.

  Q: Before I go further, what will participants have to do at this year’s ECOthon? And is it any different from past years?

 A:  The ECOthon challenges participants in an adventure traversing the islands north of historic Charleston while running, biking, swimming & paddling across Isle of Palms, Sullivans, Dewees & Capers.  So I strongly suggest reviewing a detailed course map at www.ecothon.org.

 And in detail, this year’s ECOthon Experience will start from the Isle of Palms Marina and paddle in a kayak, SUP, canoe, or other self propelled paddling device to the south end of Dewees Island via the Intracoastal Waterway, then run Dewees beach for about 2 miles, then swim a quarter mile across Capers Inlet to Capers, then run about 3 miles through the Boneyard Beach, an eroded maritime forest, up to the north end of Capers and turn around, heading back the same way to the Isle of Palms Marina.  Or if they are doing the relay with a partner, they would switch with their partner, and get a ferry ride back to the Marina while their partner returns self-propelled.

 Once back at the Marina, would land the kayak and switch to a bike and essentially ride to the southern tip of Sullivans Island, get a glimpse of the steeple studded skyline of this Holy City and finally return to the finish at the Marina.

So, it’s a half day self-guided tour of four barrier islands north of Charleston: Sullivan’s, Isle of Palms, Dewees & Capers with an element of competition if you wish, since most of the top finishers from the previous 3 years will be going against each other & themselves.  

 Q: Dana Beach calls the ECOthon “the most beautiful race on the East.” Granted, I’m not sure how many races he’s done, but that’s a strong endorsement. What will folks encounter on this race and is there something for locals, who may be immune to the beauty of the Lowcountry to a degree, get something out of it?

 A: I also have no idea how many “races” Dana has experienced, but I do know he’s seen with his very own eyes and experienced first hand a great deal more of the South Carolina Lowcountry than many native to this area given his involvement in the Coastal Conservation League he helped found in 1989.

Along with the Capers ECOrun Series (Nov 17th will be 28th Capers ECOrun), the ECOthon’s mission is to encourage environmental stewardship by taking the first steps to a better understanding of nature and our connection to it.  

For those of immune to the beauty of the Lowcountry, I encourage you to experience the Lowcountry in a different way than to which you’ve been accustomed, and maybe even a little out of your comfort zone; whether that’s the ECOthon, or a leisurely stroll without destination through Historic Charleston.  

 Q: Beach also says if someone is in shape, no extra training is needed to be ready for this race. What do you tell people who may have doubts about doing this race?

 A:  The motto for the ECOthon is: “Don’t let reality hold you back, live strong and create your own”, meaning that if you say to yourself that you can’t do the race, then you more than likely won’t. 

However, if you change your mental attitude & perspective and begin telling yourself you can do the race, you more than likely will. In any given moment, each of us has tremendous innate power to change our world & make our dreams a reality through the force of our focused mind combined with the power of persistent perseverance. 

 I would tell people with doubts that they probably can do the ECOthon as long as they are reasonably active since the ECOthon is not necessarily a race or competition.  It only becomes one if you so desire, as most of the people doing the ECOthon are doing it for the experience and just to make it through to the finish.  

 Q: Logistically, people have to swim with their shoes on their backs. Do participants need to provide their own dry bags (is that what it’s called?) And are there any other logistical tips?

 A: .It’s about a 50-50 in between people swimming with  quick dry / amphibious shoes versus a dry  bag floating attached somehow behind or flotation device as swim/float aid too. There’s other secrets about special cream to prevent chaffing, staying hydrated, and energy mixes thru out the day including days prior.

Q: Who are the beneficiaries of this year’s race?

 A: The Charleston Tibetan Society is this year’s beneficiary again as they have since the beginning.  They have their annual Auction & Bazaar, an entertaining and much less strenuous fundraiser, coming up on Saturday Nov 9 from 6 to 8pm at the CTS’s Dharma Center near the Citadel Stadium.  

The CTS has “three missions: to increase the awareness of Tibet and its unique culture, to bring the major world religions together to make a more effective contribution to humanity and world peace and to raise funds, through various donations, to help Tibetan refugees living in India, Nepal and Bhutan.”   In 2005 & 2008 I traveled to a Tibetan orphanage in Delhi back to get a glimpse of what it was like to be a young Tibetan growing up in today’s world, and was amazed at how open, happy, enthusiastic & content they were with their “reality”.  Each is still a very inspiring journey in my mind!

 Q: What’s the most and the least number of participants you’ve had in the race? And how many have signed up so far?

 A:  For the first ECOthon in 2004, there we’re only 11 and has since fluctuated between 35 to almost 90 participants.  This year I’m anticipating between 35 to 40 adventurous & brave beings. 

Q: Tell me about registration – fees, where, how?

 A:  Those wishing to participate, I encourage them to check out the website at www.ecothon.org and register online at Active.com for $85.

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