26.2 Quintiles, Wrightsville Beach Marathon
In 490 BC, Pheidippides ran the 25 miles from Marathon, Greece to Athens bringing news of the Greeks victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon. “Nenikékamen, “We have won,” he said, and then collapsed, dead from exhaustion of the effort.
Dude… If Phil had some compression pants and Gatorade, just think where running would be now.
Over the millennia, the running event of this distance has morphed into what we call a marathon. 26.2 miles of running.
Today the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon ran its second annual event and what a glorious event it was.
4:30am saw a biting chill in the air. The beautiful and upscale Mayfaire Town Centre, served as my starting point and Finish Line. I boarded a well heated massive bus to find smiling, friendly staff who answered all my silly questions. As it so happened, my friend Ben was one of the volunteers on my bus. His job was to direct the bus drivers from the drop off point at Mayfaire to the Starting Line. We joked about the fact I had forgotten my heart rate strap. Our bus filled with people from all walks of life who share the passion of running, and we set off to the Start Line.
The Starting Line was in the city park in Wrightsville Beach. The massive line of Port-a-Johns seemed overkill until the starting time loomed, but more on that later. (or maybe not. Let’s just say I’m glad they were there at 20 minutes until Start.)
A truck larger than a U-Haul sat near the Start Line. This huge truck had lighted LED screens on each side and the back which cycled motivational quotes from people like Steve Prefontaine, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Rogers.
As the busses brought more and more people to the Starting area, anticipation filled the air. I bumped into friends and clients, all of which were there to prove their mettle, pounding themselves on this anvil of asphalt.
Tom Clifford, owner of Without Limits Coaching was the Grand Master and he orchestrated the swelling crowd of 2700+ runners with the laid back ease of a Wilmington sunrise. We all lined up near the Starting Line, the National Anthem was sung, (which always makes me cry) and then they cranked Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” the song chosen by the runners on the Quintiles Marathon Facebook page.
I’m running a marathon.
A mass start of an event where almost 3000 human beings are all trying to jockey for their own space is just a melee of bodies. Even though there were thousands of people, all jacked up on Hammer Heed and Gels there was such a relaxed feel it all worked itself out quickly and politely.
Every cross street on Wrightsville Beach had people standing at the end with their dog. It brought such a personal and intimate feel to the beginning of an event which is so inherently personal that I got a little emotional about it. It was happy and fun to see which kinds of doggies we would run by next.
My goals were to run 10-15 minutes and then walk for 30-60 seconds the entire day. That plan went out the window as the sun rise crept up out of the sea. The Aid stations were all themed after the ACC collage basket ball teams because we are in March Madness.
I have to give a shout out to Sami Winter here because it was her hard work and dedication to this project that made it so fantastic. Each aid station had people dressed up in their collage colours: Duke, NC State, GA Bulldogs, Clemson, UNC Wilmington and my beloved Tar Heels were all there. (If I missed one, gimmie a break, I was running a marathon.) The Duke station had the tallest flags, Bulldogs had real Bulldogs, NC State had a cute girl dressed up like a wolf dancing around, the Tar Heels had a huge Rameses and (in my humble opinion) the cutest girls. But I am a sucker for a girl in anything Carolina Blue. The Tar Heels were also at mile 11 so I got to make my Spinal Tap “11″ joke which merited a laugh from a few of them. (Note to girls: laugh at guys stupid jokes, it makes him feel good.)
Running down Eastwood Drive, Stephen Chappell passed me like I was standing still.
Katie Wagner and Steve Lewis were at one of the aid stations I passed by quite a few times. Steve tried to snap a photo of me with his iPhone, and if I can snag a copy I will post it here.
Sami Winter was on course on her Carolina Blue Guru with her glow in the dark pink Rudy Helmet and while she was taking care of all the volunteers, she also took time to shout words of encouragement and give a big smile.
I saw my buddy Randy Ivey at the UNC Tar Heel aid station, and Christy Turner clapped and told me I was doing great. Fantastic friends are worth more than gold.
There was a Half marathon being run at the same time as our full one. At mile 12, two thirds of the people running peeled off to their Finish Line leaving the roads clear and uncluttered for the rest of us.
Melanie and Shawn Spencer were involved with the aid stations and while I only bumped into Shawn once during the day, Melanie must have driven past me a dozen times. I began to think she knew something I didn’t and was just waiting for me to fall out!
A man in blue shorts and compression socks was on my pace. We were joined by two girls, one in tights and the other in a blue shirt and compression socks. We all took turns on point and shared words of motivation and encouragement.
I have to say that the residents of Landfall are the most gracious hosts imaginable. Here we were, thousands of strangers from all over the world allowed to come into their gated community and run until we thought we would pass out. Landfall is breathtakingly beautiful and a fantastic place.
I ran up behind the girl with two tattoos at mile 15. We were at an identical pace. I ran silently with this woman for the rest of the day. Identical in pace, I was not going to walk until she did. As we neared the finish line, we spoke briefly and she admitted we was waiting for me to walk too. Runners are a funny bunch.
My time was around 4:17.
My personal favorite sign held up for runners read “Duh… Winning!”
Some notable runners were the two Superheroes: Merman and (the other guy), The panda hat guy, the keg hat guy, and the girl who carried a surf board the entire way. (Note to self: Your ego is happy you finished in front of the girl carring the surf board.)
On a personal note, this was the first marathon or endurance event I have run where my parents were there. Needless to say, it was very special.
We have won.
My thanks again to Tom Clifford, Sami Winter and the entire staff of volunteers who made this years Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach a wonderful success.