First off, let me just say that this may be my favorite race to date. Had an incredible time. We lucked out on weather. We had good times before and after the race, so that may be swaying my opinion. My sis and I flew into Raleigh, NC. One of my besties lives there. We stayed with her and she showed us her town. It was my 2nd time to visit her there and I love this area of our country more and more each time I visit. Such great food places (not many chains). Such great brewpubs. Such great great people. Such great sights.
After I got into town, I had a few hours to kill so I went for a run. I ran in Umstead Park. Even though it’s called a park, it’s really a forest. It’s huge. Lots of trails, lakes, wildlife, and really tall trees. It was gorgeous. And I’m told it’s where Gwen Paltrow would go on runs when she was there shooting Iron Man. She has good taste. My trail run was wonderful.
But enough about Raleigh, this post is about the race. It takes place around Kitty Hawk, NC in the Outer Banks. The OBX is basically a string of islands off the coast. It’s where Blackbeard the pirate hung out. It’s where the Wright Bros did their first flight. Hence the name of the race – Flying Pirate. It was my first time to OBX, and it was beautiful. So any race there has a great chance of being scenic…and it was!
This race was so much more low key and laid back than the races I’m used to. You run a Rock n Roll Marathon Series race and you’ve got lots of hoopla, and lots of people. This race was the opposite. People were so chill. Getting ready for the race to start, it felt more like a casual Sunday jog than a competitive race. People were genuinely happy and chill. Oh, and there were lots of people dressed like pirates. Of course!
The course starts through a parkish-neighborhoody area. It then ran along the Sound. We were literally feet away from the water. It was beautiful. The course then went through some neighborhoods. Most of the places on the island were empty since it was the off-season (no tourists), but the locals who were there came out to cheer for us. And they also cheered in a laid back manner. They weren’t jumping up and down with crazy signs and noisemakers. They were supporting us with golf claps and words of encouragement.
Even the other runners were supportive. I don’t see that at most races in Dallas. As I passed other racers, they would actually take the energy to to yell out encouragement to me. I really appreciated that. It was really cool. More on this in a minute…
Anyway, the course then took us past the Wright Brothers monument where they had their first flight. Yet another scenic spot. But then things got hairy. The course left the paved surfaces for the dirt pathways of a nature preserve. The last 3-4 miles were a hilly trail run. I wasn’t expecting that. I hadn’t trained for that. My pace to that point had been pretty good and a PR looked like it was a given. It wasn’t. Running trail hills after 10 miles took it’s toll on me. I had to walk up a few of the steeper ones.
There was a guy in an Elvis costume doing the same thing. We’d have to walk up some of the hills, but then were able to run down. In fact, as I was walking up a hill, a small group of racers passed me, but on the downhill I caught up to them and they all cheered for me. They encouraged me to finish with them…and we did! That was really cool. Runners helping runners. In fact, after the race, some guy came up to my sis and thanked her for running with him for most of the race. He said she helped him finish and didn’t even know it.
After the race, there was a big pirate party. Pirate ship, live band, free food, free beer, people laying in the sun. Again, laid back. Totally chill atmosphere. That’s island life for you.
And yes, the medals were cool. I didn’t take a pic of the backs of them, but they’re cool too with cool inscriptions. “Happy Happy Happy” they say.
In the end, I finished right at 1:48:32. That’s 8:17 per mile. Good enough for 24th in age group and 177 overall. My time wasn’t what I was shooting for, but given the tough final three miles, I’ll take it. I will say that the only cool thing about the hills is that as we left the nature preserve, we entered a field. It was 100 yards downhill to the finish. You’d never seen so many people running so fast at the end of a half. Like I said, 100 yards down hill! And it was a serious slope.
Anywhoodle, after the race, we got some seafood, then some bottles of wine, then chilled on the beach all day. It was really chill. Dolphins and surfers out in the ocean. Great way to recover after a race.
The next day we actually went and checked out the Wright Bros monument. It’s probably the highest point of the island had great views at the top. I was surprised to learn how even Amelia Earhart had visited it. They also have a set of statues where they recreated the famous photo of the first flight. We had fun posing with the statues.
We also checked out the sand dunes. One of only a handful in the country. I had been to the ones in Michigan before, but that was many moons ago. These were pretty cool though. They teach hang gliding there, and supposedly Blackbeard buried some treasure there too.
So I once again must declare this my favorite race to date. It was like none other I’ve done before – smaller and laid back. Supportive runners and spectators. Really cool swag (I forgot to mention they also gave us a pint glass too). Extremely scenic course. Very flat course until the very hilly last few miles…But even those last tough miles were very beautiful too. Cool medal. Fun afterparty. Great part of our country. Historical location. Excellent food around. Nice people. Beaches. I could go on and on. I have nothing but positive thoughts on this race. Can’t wait to do it again!!!