Running, Travel

Southern Fried Half Marathon in the Outer Banks

I signed up to run the Outer Banks marathon sometime last spring, but between my new teaching position, and my running partner becoming injured, I definitely did not put in the miles I needed to run a full. For a hot minute, I pondered running the full just to see what my body (and mind) are capable of. It would not have been for time, though I know my pride would have been damaged if it took much more than 5 hours, as it realistically probably would have. I procrastinated transferring my race from the full to the half, leaving the decision of what race I would run somewhat up to chance, but there was still space available for the half at the expo on Saturday. For an additional $30 of course, making this the most expensive half I have ever run!
I left Tampa bright and early Saturday morning and after two one hour flights, first to Atlanta, and then to Norfolk, VA, sat in the tiny Norfolk airport waiting for my parents to pick me up on their drive down from DE. I arrived at 2pm, knowing the expo closed at 6 and it was about a 2 hour drive from the VA airport to get there. When my step-mom text and said they were over an hour away from the airport because of traffic, panic immediately set in! I hit the taxi stand and shuttle stand to find out how much a ride to OBX would be. Over $200! Apparently, there is no easy and direct way to get to the Outer Banks from Tampa. I tried to curb my anxiety and wait patiently for them to arrive. And of course I text my step-mom to tell my dad, pedal to the metal. They pulled in to the airport around 3:15 and we made it to the expo, located in Kill Devil Hills, with 30 minutes to spare. After getting my registration squared away, we headed to our vacation rental where we were staying with my parent’s friends, a couple who was also running the marathon.
We had a delicious home cooked meal of spaghetti and meatballs, a little wine, and played a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity before heading to bed. My sister arrived for spectator duty around midnight and I could hear her clamber into the top bunk of our beds but quickly passed out again. I felt well rested when my alarm went off at 5:30am and made sure I had everything I needed for my race – Garmin, IPod Shuffle, sexy water fanny pack (water bottle with Nuun), Cliff Shots, and a sticky note with my parent’s phone numbers and our rental address in case we couldn’t find each other at the end of the race. Yes, I was a Girl Scout! Mary An and Bill, who were running the marathon, were also up and ready to go. The half started at 7:00, at the halfway point of the marathon, and the marathon started at 7:30. They both seemed excited and nervous, and I felt very relieved I only had to run 13.1 miles as opposed to 26.2.
Then Bill delivered the bad news. The wind was blowing at 20 mph! I stepped outside onto the deck and realized he was right; it was freezing (aka low 60s) outside! While I wanted a cooler race than our ridiculous Tampa temperatures, I wasn’t expecting it to feel so cold, and certainly not windy. The good news per Bill, was that the wind would be at our backs.
My sister, me, Dad and Lis piled into the car and headed off for the half start in Nags Head. We found parking in a designated race lot at a school and got to the start in plenty of time. It was a lot more laid back and easy to navigate than the start of MCM in DC last year. My parents left me shivering in corral C and went to find a spot to cheer a few blocks away where I could hand off my sweatshirt. While I wanted to break a 2 hour half, I wasn’t sure I would be able to given that the only training I have done the last couple of months has been a 6 to7 mile run, once a week, at a 10 minute pace. Once in a while, I managed to squeeze in 2 runs a week and a crossfit workout. I am very competitive though so I knew I was going to try and push myself. At 7, Corral A took off and the rest of us slid closer to the start. Designating the corrals were two people holding a piece of rope, very high tech.
I crossed the start line at 7:04 am and started off around a 9 minute mile pace, hoping that I would warm up quickly. It was a little crowded initially but again nothing compared to the start at Gasparilla or MCM. As promised, I saw my family around the first mile mark and I chucked them a water bottle I was carrying and my sweatshirt. I felt good and decided to pick up the pace a bit and try to keep it under a 9 and closer to 8:30.
The first few miles went by fairly quickly, and mentally I was determined to finish in 2 hours, if not earlier based on my time. We ran along US 158 for the first two miles with the wind at our backs and I wondered when the course would become more scenic and waterfront as implied by race reviews. At mile two we took a right towards Roanoke Sound and I got my first glimpse of the water. I felt disappointed when we turned left half a mile later and went back up to nondescript 158. And we had to run directly into a strong wind to get back to the highway which slowed everyone down. We did another loop at mile 5 through a neighborhood on the sound and back to the highway. By mile 6 I could feel significant chafing on my inner arms but tried to ignore it.
The highway was only closed off on one lane on the right side, so it was easy for spectators, including my family, to stop and cheer at multiple locations. They held up fun signs when I saw them at miles 4 and 7 (Run Now, Beer Later; Run Like a Unicorn; Run Like You’re Being Chased by a Republican!). The support really kept me going and inspired me to push to keep a fast pace. They drove by me on the highway a couple of times and honked and cheered as I smiled and waved my arms around.
At mile 8 we turned right onto US 64 and started the last (long) stretch to the finish in Manteo. At some point the dreaded Washington-Baum Bridge came into view and I remember thinking “you’ve got to be kidding” and decided to avert my gaze so I didn’t psych myself out. I do try to include a bridge that’s located close to my house in my training runs and once I hit this bridge, I was grateful I did. After a 650 foot climb to the top, during which I maintained a 9:30 pace and passed quite a few people, I sprinted down the back side to make up time. For me, the race became significantly more challenging after the bridge and I had to find people ahead of me to keep a visual on and an imaginary tow line to! Mile 12 was pretty awful and I had to tell myself repeatedly that it would be over in less than 10 minutes. A very long 10 minutes! My chafing was excruciating and my legs were starting to hate me but I didn’t want to disappoint myself or my family by giving in now and I knew if I pushed through I could finish in 1:55. I tried to stay on the heels of another female runner who also seemed to be struggling but determined, to maintain motivation.
Just as I though we would never see the finish line, we made one last right turn in Manteo and I could see it! I mustered up the last bit of energy I had for what I can barely call a sprint to get through the finish looking strong! I felt ecstatic running over the last timing mat, knowing I had completed the race at 1:55 and given it my all. Sadly, my parents missed my finish because spectators had to drive a roundabout way to get to Manteo and then take a shuttle because of road closures but I felt very supported and loved throughout the race and couldn’t wait to share my time with them.

My Race Stats

I accepted my medal, stocked up on water and Gatorade, and found a grassy curb to sit on at the end of the finish chute. They found me a few minutes later and I excitedly shared my time and took photos with them. This half wasn’t my PR but I think it was my second best half and I felt proud of myself given my lack of training.  Having a great finishing time was definitely the motivation I need to get back into a consistent running routine again as I look forward to Ragnar Keys and who knows what other races in the near future!

With my sister at the end of the race. Notice she is bundled up in a jacket because it’s freezing outside!

Bill, 64, and Mary An, 62, were also an inspiration in this race. Mary An hasn’t run a marathon in 30 years but she finished this one even after her muscles seized up at mile 13. They crossed the finish line together in just under 7 hours and we were there to cheer them through 🙂 

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