Over this past week, I have watched my family and friends leave their homes to escape from Hurricane Florence. As of Sunday, September 16, the main part of the storm had officially passed the Wilmington area, but further flooding from an unprecedented amount of rain has continued to fall and devastate Wilmington. Weeks and months of recovery will follow. The folks with the Wrightsville Beach Marathon want to help those interested in this race make a difference for those affected. From Saturday, September 15 until Sunday, September 30, you can help with Hurricane Florence relief in the Wilmington, NC community, either by a direct donation, of which 100% will go to relief efforts, or by signing up for the race by September 30, in which $20 of your race fee will go towards hurricane relief. If you have been thinking of a spring race, consider signing up for one of the Wrightsville Beach race events. Below is a race review so you can learn more about my marathon race experience from March 2018, and tidbits from other years I have run this race.
Looking for a flat, well-supported, and fun local beach race? A quick 2-hour drive down I-40, usually the first or second weekend in March, will get you to the Wrightsville Beach Marathon. In 2019, the Wrightsville Beach Marathon will be celebrating its 10th year. I have run this race several times, both the half and the full, most recently the full 26.2 miles on March 17, 2018. There is also a 1 mile and 5K on Friday, as well as a marathon relay option on Saturday. The race director Tom Clifford, also happens to also be an overall Ironman 70.3 winner, coach, and pretty interesting person in my opinion (to learn more about him, check out this Hourglass Podcast episode).
Packet pick-up was at the Burney Center on UNCW’s campus, near the race finish, so it was a great way to get a quick visualization of myself successfully crossing the finish line. The expo was moderately sized with some great vendors. I was able to meet the two pacers at the expo as well (a word of advice: always meet your pacers and always be cautious when using pacers). One of the very best things about this race is the swag. The cotton race shirts have always been super soft, and a great design that you won’t mind wearing more than once. But there’s more: this year we received perhaps the softest pair of comfy PJ pants that I own…green and covered in shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. These pants are hands down my all time favorite race swag ever–I lounge in them pretty frequently!
Race day weather in March in NC can vary widely. I have run this race on a 70 degree, humid, misty day, and I have run it on a cool, 55-65 degree, partly cloudy day. The start is in Wrightsville Beach and there are shuttles available. There’s a good parking lot nearby to do some warm ups and strides. We had a bit of a wait at the porta johns this past year, and they delayed the start by 5 minutes to allow more time to get to the start line. The course map has changed over the years, but I found it to be an enjoyable tour of the area. It begins just before sunrise going through Wrightsville Beach, into parts of Wilmington, onto the Cross City Trail (all paved), and ends at UNC Wilmington’s campus. At first
glance it seems like a wild course: lots of forward and backward loops, out and backs, more loops, etc. Tom Clifford put together a useful worm video of the course to help get a sense of what it looks like, and the course itself is extremely well marked, with plenty of volunteers and water/fuel stops. There is crowd support along the route, and some quieter miles when you only hear the patter of running feet. There are several places for spectators to gather. My crazy friends who came to support me were dressed in green from head to toe for St. Patrick’s Day, so they were hard to miss when I ran by them during the race.
I enjoyed smacking the heck out of the PR bell at the end of the race. Oddly, in 2018, the finisher medals did not arrive on time, so runners received their medals in the mail a few days later. But, this isn’t indicative of this well-organized race. There was a race day party, both at the finish line, and at Waterman’s Brewery. My friends and I chose to check out one of the favorite eateries nearby, The Wrightsville Beach Brewery, which had great beer, kombucha, and yummy food. This is a race I am likely to run again, or spectate, because I will use almost any excuse to combine running and going to the beach.