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The Critz Tybee Run Fest has been developed into today’s event through a series of changes and advances over the past few decades. Over the years, many people have assisted in organizing the events that have lead up to the Critz Tybee Run Fest; between course and location modifications, changing sponsors and a variety of other adjustments, the new and evolved event format has been able to improve significantly year after year.
The Critz Tybee Run Fest has its roots dating back to when Cedric Stratton, a founding member of the Savannah Striders Track Club organized the March of Dimes Marathon at Hunter Army Airfield in 1978. The next year it was renamed the Savannah Marathon, which stuck until the run moved to Tybee Island in 1995. The Savannah Marathon remained on Hunter Army Airfield until 1991 when the Gulf War crisis caused it to move to Skidaway Island. The following year the run moved downtown where it stayed until its relocation to Tybee.
When the event moved to Tybee Island in 1995, it became the Tybee Maritime Marathon (later becoming the Memorial Health Tybee Marathon) which included a marathon, half marathon, and 5K. All races were USATF certified courses and the marathon was a Boston qualifier during the years it was held. The full marathon was dropped in 2009 and the event then featured a half marathon and 5K. In early 2009 the title sponsor at the time backed out of the event on short notice and the event was supposed to be cancelled. When Dale Critz Jr., an avid runner and prominent Savannah community figure, found out about the cancellation, he contacted Robert Espinoza, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Savannah, and the two men quickly jumped onboard for assuring the occurrence of the 2009 event. The Critz Tybee Run was then born.
Even though 2009 was a tough sell to runners from all over the region due to the late changes in the event, Espinoza and Critz made the race great for runners, walkers, spectators, volunteers, sponsors, local businesses and residents. The City of Tybee also had a very positive outlook on the event not being cancelled. The mayor of Tybee Island, Jason Buelterman told Adam Van Brimmer of the Savannah Morning News, "Anything that gets thousands of people and their families down here in February is a good thing for the island". Local businesses now look forward to it every year instead of dreading what would be the off season's slowest month for tourism without the event. Since the changes in leadership in 2009, there has a been a lot of great response from participants about the race course, post-race party, and overall organization of the event with “sold out” races in 2010 and 2011.
The Critz Tybee Run became the Critz Tybee Run Fest in 2012. The additions to the event put a whole new twist on the already established and successful event to generate more fun, interest and attract more participants. Instead of just being the half marathon and 5K as in years past, the event spread to span over an entire weekend and a 10K, 2.8 mile beach run, and a 1 mile run were added to the festivities. Participants now have the opportunity of doing 1, 2, 3, 4, or all 5 events, whichever they choose. By participating in all 5 events, the distances add up to 26.2 miles; a full marathon. Back in 2009, the Critz Tybee Run's race director Robert Espinoza told Savannah Morning News' Nathan Dominitz that he wanted the run to become "a world-class event; it starts with a vision." With a lot of work and effort being poured into it, Robert and Dale Critz's vision is gradually becoming a reality.
All information gathered to provide this write-up was derived from Savannah Morning News articles and previous Savannah/Tybee Marathon info/registration websites. Neither Critz, Inc. or Fleet Feet Sports Savannah is responsible for any misunderstanding of details regarding the history of any of the races mentioned above.
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