2015 Battleship Half Marathon, Wilmington, North Carolina
After two full marathons, MEDOC Mountain and City of Oaks, in the weeks prior to this half, I promised myself I would not RACE this event. I planned to simply run the Battleship Half Marathon for fun and to experience a one of kind half marathon. That plan lasted all of 8 miles…
Wilmington, is a nice little river front town with a very active college scene and home to the WWII Battleship U.S.S North Carolina. Station right across the river is the Active Duty Coast Guard Cutter Diligence. Our son Anthony is a crew member on the Diligence, when he sent me a notice about this race I just had to add it to my fall calendar. I could not pass up an opportunity to visit him, see the Diligence, and notch up another half marathon. My wife, Michele and Anthony would run the 5k.
Saturday morning Michele and I with our two fur kids Carly and Emmy Lu headed south for Wilmington.
Race central was at the Hilton Hotel centrally located downtown along the river front. This location was perfect as there are plenty of family friendly (even the four legged kind) taverns, and restaurants to grab a quick bite to eat while picking up your race goodies. The Expo was small and low key, for a field of approx. 1300 for the half marathon and 300 or so for the 5k. I thought packet pick up was well organized and very friendly. After picking up our race gear we headed to a local tavern to sit relax and to “people watch” for a spell.
Race morning, with very limited parking at the starting line adjacent to the U.S.S North Carolina, the race organizers offered water-taxi rides from downtown to the start. This pre-race movement went off without a hitch. Although Saturday afternoon was near perfect weather with clear skies, warm temps and near zero wind, race morning found the opposite. This morning it was very windy and cold. Somehow I missed the memo and under dressed. Go figure. As great planning would have it the water-taxis ran nearly every ten minutes and we were able to walk right on board to begin our voyage to the start. Once on the other side of the river, we noticed the area next to the starting line offered very few places to get out of the elements. We quickly found away around that. In case you were unable to pick up your race packet the day before, this race offered race day packet pick up. Although already having our stuff, the indoors packet pick up area made the perfect place to get out of the cold. Although a general announcement was made to have everyone leave packet pick up area, no one really forced us (a good size like minded crowd) to go outside. The hovering and warm crowd much to its credit was well behaved to not make an issue with the organizers. I’m very thankful for that. With 15 minutes to go Anthony and I moved to the starting line.
As we stood a stones throw from the great battleship, I wondered what the old girl would say if she could talk to us on that blistery morning. During World War II, the NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars. In the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in August of 1942, the Battleship’s anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier ENTERPRISE, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. To learn more about the North Carolina visit her web site here.
The half marathon was scheduled to go off first. I’m normally in my starting place early, but today choose to arrive just in time. Many must have had the same idea as I and the corral filled up rather fast. After some brief but appropriate opening words and the national anthem, the race was off.Vowing to not race this event, I parked myself on the shoulder of the two hour pacer and went along for the ride.
The race course offered ever changing scenery as you make your way from “battleship row,” over two bridges, and thru downtown. Wilmington’s tavern district featured tons of fan support, the heavy smell of breakfast and running over some cobblestone roadways headed out of town and thru a lake district housing. The ever changing scenery along this route made the opening miles click off without much thought as I stuck to my “keep it in check plan.” One of the nicest aspects of this race for the runners and spectators is that it offers multiple viewing location within easy distance for family and friends. I had seen some fans enough that over the course of the day that we built a relationship that by race end they were cheering me on. This made the middle miles of the run very entertaining.
And then something went wrong with my plan…I was feeling very, very, good at the half way point.
6 miles in 52:56
Somehow I managed to hold myself back for another mile. “Brian,” I reasoned, “you have the JFK 50 in two weeks you can’t afford to blow something up and in the past 20 days you’ve run two FULL MARATHONS, just sit back and run easy.”
My plea fell on deft ears at mile 8.
Mile 8 7:59
Mile 9 7:57
Mile 10 7:35
Mile 11 7:34
Mile 12 7:42
Mile 13 7:39
13.1 miles in 1:50:55 not my fastest half by a long shot but after such a pedestrian start and mailing it in for 8 miles I’m pretty happy with my finish. The fact that my legs felt so alive during the closing stages of the race gave me a big boost of confidence for the 50 miler to come.
Perhaps the best part of the day was receiving my finishers medal from an Active Duty Marine aka just like the Marine Corp Marathon except here they were in full dress blues. This is always a touching way to end a race, even for this 20 year military vet.
The after race experience would have been awesome if not for the rain, wind and cold…I snagged myself a slice of pizza and headed for the water taxi and my warm car.
BEST news of all, I did not blow up anything and should toe the line at JFK with a strong resolve, fresh legs…and some confidence.
Are you all hands on deck for 2016?