Welcome to my race report for the 2015 Outer Banks Marathon. This is the 10th anniversary of the Outer Banks Marathon and my second time running this race.
Since this isn’t a suspense novel, I’ll spoil the ending up front. The race went well (for both myself and my wife) and I’m feeling great for the JFK 50 in two weeks (one week from this posting). After that, the Rehoboth Beach Marathon is two weeks later.
Thankfully, the neck and back pain my wife was experiencing before the race subsided enough to not be a major hinderance to her. So she also did well and enjoyed the race (although she says she’s ready to be done with marathons and focus on shorter races).
Overall, the Outer Banks Marathon was well organized and mostly uneventful. No surprises. No issues. Everything was smooth, which is really what you want in a race weekend anyway. However, that doesn’t always make for the most interesting reading. But I will try to make this race recap as interesting and informative as I can.
If you’ve never been to the Outer Banks (OBX) area, it is a great place to visit. The area is composed of multiple small towns along the barrier islands in North Carolina including Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo to name a few.
First, there is the history. The OBX area is filled with a history that includes pirates, shipwrecks, native americans, and early colonists. Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the new world, was born on Roanoke Island (which is now near Manteo) and disappeared in 1587 along with the rest of the infamous lost colony. In addition, Kill Devil Hills is the location of the historic first flights by the Wilber and Orville Wright brothers.
Then, there are the legends. How much truth there is to these legends is hard to say. One legend is of the origin of the Kill Devil Hills name itself. One theory is that a ship carrying a rum called Kill Devil (because it was strong enough to “kill the devil”) wrecked in the area. The local scavengers then took the rum and buried it in the hills, hence the name “Kill Devil Hills.”
Another legend from the area has to do with Nags Head and Jockey’s Ridge, which is the largest sand dune in the eastern United States and now a state park. The legend is that land pirates or wreckers would hang a lantern around a horse’s or nag’s head and walk up and down the sand dunes of Jockey Ridge at night. From a distance, the lantern light would look like a ship bobbing in the waves near the coast. Thinking it was a ship anchored offshore, other ships in the distance would then move closer to shore to anchor. However, they would misjudge the shoreline and run aground. Then the wreckers would attack the ship, steal the cargo, and kill the crew.
The area off the coast is nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Since the 1500s, more than 5000 ships have wrecked in the area for one reason or another.
Starting in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and ending in downtown Manteo, the Outer Banks Marathon course provides a small glimpse of some of this history during the race. And while you’re in town for the race, I definitely recommend you take advantage of the other opportunities to learn more.
The Outer Banks Marathon is a relatively small marathon compared to some of the mega-marathons out there with 30,000+ people. At the Outer Banks Marathon this year, there were approximately 870 finishers. Not small, but not overly large either.
In general, the race has a nice local feel, although many people do travel from the surrounding areas. November is the off-season for the area, so holding events such as these is a great way to provide a small boost to the local economy.
In addition to the full marathon, race weekend this year also included a half marathon, a 6 mile run, an 8K, a 5K, and a Family Fun Run. You could run both a Saturday and Sunday race as part of a challenge. In short, there were plenty of races to choose from.
The marathon, half marathon, and 6 mile race took place on Sunday. The other races took place on Saturday. The half marathon started at the halfway point of the marathon and finished at the same spot in downtown Manteo.
Travel / Hotel
We currently live in Northern Virginia and it is around a 5 hour drive to Kill Devil Hills, NC. However, depending on traffic on I-95 and in Norfolk, it has taken us around 8 hours before.
Every time we come to Outer Banks, we stay at the same hotel — The Travel Lodge at Nags Head. It isn’t fancy by any means. But the price is right, the staff is friendly, and it is in a good location. It also allows pets, which allows us to bring our dog. The hotel is right across the street from the beach and near the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It also includes a complimentary breakfast and the hotel opens it early on race weekends so early runners can still get some food.
Bib / Packet Pick-up
Packet pick-up is at the race expo on Friday or Saturday. The expo is relatively small compared to some larger marathons, but that is to be expected. However, it still contains many of the typical race expo shops so you can get any last minute running gear.
There was one issue with people parking in the entry area of the expo parking lot, effectively creating a traffic jam. If the parking lot looks busy, it is probably easier to park down the road and walk. Other than this minor detail, packet pickup was smooth.
Parking / Transportation
The marathon course is a point-to-point course. So for parking, you can either park near the start and take a shuttle from the finish line or you can park at the finish and take a shuttle to the start line.
We opted to park near the start and take the shuttle bus back to our car at the end. This seemed like a safer option as far as making sure we got to the starting line on time. But I think either option would have worked fine. We did end up waiting about 30 minutes or so for the shuttle at the end. So if you’re short on time at the end of the race, parking near the finish might be faster.
The starting line parking is actually at the nearby Walmart parking lot. The starting line is about a mile from there, but they have shuttles that will take you from Walmart to the start.
The starting line is located at the corner of The Woods Road and N Croatan Highway. There are plenty of port-a-johns at the start and you can drop a bag off to be picked up at the finish line.
As mentioned above, the course is a point-to-point course and relatively flat. The first 4 miles are in the shady neighborhoods of Kitty Hawk.
Around mile 4, the course follows Bay Drive with Kitty Hawk Bay on the right and residential areas on the left. See the first picture of the post above. This is a beautiful part of the course.
Around mile 8, the course runs around the Wright Brothers National Monument. This is a great moment to take a few pictures if you have a phone with you. Also, if you get a chance to visit the Wright Brothers National Monument while not racing, I definitely recommend it. The museum and guide talks are very interesting and informative.
There is a brief section of dirt trail between mile 10 and 13 inside the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve. Inside the preserve, there are some small hills, but nothing major. The trail is hard packed dirt, but there is the occasional sharp rock. Just something to be aware of if you plan to run in barefoot or in extremely minimal shoes
From there, the course winds through a few more residential areas and past Jockey Ridge State Park, which his the largest sand dune in the eastern United States.
As a brief aside, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a very interesting place. When you are in the middle of the park (not during the race), there are places where all you can see in every direction is light brown sand. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in the middle of a large desert. And like a desert, you should bring water. It can get very hot. Many people also hang glide off these large sand dunes.
Continuing with the race, the only major elevation change is the Washington-Baum Bridge at about mile 23. But it is a gradual incline, so not overly challenging. All runners need to make sure they are over the bridge by 1:30 PM before both lanes reopen. This is about a 16 minute per mile pace.
Once over the bridge, the course continues the last few miles to the finish line in downtown Manteo, which is located on Roanoke Island. Roanoke Island is where the Roanoke Colony settled in 1585. When other colonists checked on the colony in 1587, they found no one. There are many theories about what happened to the lost Roanoke Colony, but I won’t go into that here.
As I mentioned above, the race itself was uneventful. My plan for the race was to run with my wife and not push it too hard since I have the JFK 50 in two weeks. I was essentially treating this as my last long run before that race.
My wife and I finished in 4:24:43, which was better than her time on this race last year. Initially, she was concerned about her recent back and neck pain, but that turned out not to be a major issue during the race.
For the race, I used the Garmin fenix 3 GPS watch and had no issues acquiring satellites or with GPS accuracy. The Garmin fenix 3 measured 26.5 miles in total, which is fairly close in my opinion. For shoes, I ran in the ultra smooth New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, which also performed well. Be sure to check out my reviews for both these items at the links above.
Lastly, here is the link to my Strava activity for those interested.
Now for a few other details about the race not covered above.
There are 13 aid stations spread out through the course providing water, Gatorade, and energy gels. Water and first aid were at every station. Gatorade was at 9 of the stations and energy gels at 4 of the stations. And last but not least, there were 19 port-a-john opportunities. Overall, there was plenty of support for all your running needs and emergencies.
Finish Line / Post Race Activities
The finish line in downtown Manteo was set up nicely. All the usuals such as water, snacks, and a finisher medal were provided. In addition, each runner received a BBQ sandwich, sweet potato fries, and two beers. More food was available for purchase. There was also a band playing music while you eat and wait for the award ceremonies.
Overall, the Outer Banks Marathon is a very enjoyable and relaxing marathon. The area and race activities make for a nice weekend and running vacation if that is your sort of thing.
The race is well organized and has plenty of support. If you’re interested in going to the Outer Banks area and enjoy marathons or half marathons, this is a great weekend to go.
I hope this race recap was both interesting and informative. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Thanks for reading.