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      Mini-Marathon shows Myrtle Beach is runners' haven

      As thousands of runners hit the streets of Myrtle Beach this weekend for the third annual Mini-Marathon, it's another sign that the Grand Strand is gaining a reputation as a hot spot for running events.

      Mark Miller of Conway is among those who have decided to become a runner. He plans to compete in next year's Myrtle Beach marathon, because these days, running just seems to be the thing to do.

      "I had some friends who were doing some marathons and I've been want to get more involved, more into it," Miller said.

      Miller shopped for shoes and supplies at the area's only specialty store for runners, Black Dog Running Company.

      The store's owner moved to the Grand Strand from Virginia last spring to open the shop, because he says he could see Myrtle Beach was ready to take off.

      "I think there's a market that's growing and a lot of potential, so, I'm very optimistic about the future of running in Myrtle Beach," said store owner Daniel Brass.

      While Miller will not be running in this weekend's mini-marathon, more than 4,000 other people will be, from 45 different states.

      Organizer Robert Pozo says the race will have about a $6 million economic impact on the area.

      Local runners say the Grand Strand seems to be attracting more runners and events every year.

      "I believe with the amount of races that are popping up here and there that it will promote the sport a lot more and we'll all get to run together," said Libby Viau of Myrtle Beach.

      But as much as Myrtle Beach is becoming more of a runner friendly town, the runners themselves say the city could still do more, by providing more and better places for the runners to run.

      "If there were trails to run, if there were parks and places where there's specific areas where not only could you meet other runners but that they're safe and well-lit, it would definitely be a great thing," said Pat Gehander of Sunset Beach, NC, who's signed up to run the mini marathon.

      Pozo says Myrtle Beach wasn't really a runner's haven a few years ago, but it is now, and he's already planning next year's

      , it's another sign that the Grand Strand is gaining a reputation as a hot spot for running events.

      Mark Miller of Conway is among those who have decided to become a runner. He plans to compete in next year's Myrtle Beach marathon, because these days, running just seems to be the thing to do.

      "I had some friends who were doing some marathons and I've been want to get more involved, more into it," Miller said.

      Miller shopped for shoes and supplies at the area's only specialty store for runners, Black Dog Running Company.

      The store's owner moved to the Grand Strand from Virginia last spring to open the shop, because he says he could see Myrtle Beach was ready to take off.

      "I think there's a market that's growing and a lot of potential, so, I'm very optimistic about the future of running in Myrtle Beach," said store owner Daniel Brass.

      While Miller will not be running in this weekend's mini-marathon, more than 4,000 other people will be, from 45 different states.

      Organizer Robert Pozo says the race will have about a $6 million economic impact on the area.

      Local runners say the Grand Strand seems to be attracting more runners and events every year.

      "I believe with the amount of races that are popping up here and there that it will promote the sport a lot more and we'll all get to run together," said Libby Viau of Myrtle Beach.

      But as much as Myrtle Beach is becoming more of a runner friendly town, the runners themselves say the city could still do more, by providing more and better places for the runners to run.

      "If there were trails to run, if there were parks and places where there's specific areas where not only could you meet other runners but that they're safe and well-lit, it would definitely be a great thing," said Pat Gehander of Sunset Beach, NC, who's signed up to run the mini marathon.

      Pozo says Myrtle Beach wasn't really a runner's haven a few years ago, but it is now, and he's already planning next year's mini -marathon.

      Saturday's running events include the Coastal 5-K at 7:30 a.m., the High Heel run at 8:30, and the Doggie Dash at 8:45.

      The mini - marathon starts at 7 a.m. Sunday at Coastal Grand Mall. It runs down 17th Ave. South, then Grissom Parkway, around Broadway at the Beach, then back down Grissom, down a few of the avenues and then up Ocean Boulevard and finishing up along the Boardwalk.

      Drivers should expect road closures, especially along Grissom Parkway.