Race Review: The Outerbanks Half Marathon, Nov. 2011
The Outerbanks Half Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my very first half marathon and that sense of accomplishment made the experience that much better.
The Setting: You just can't beat the setting of this race. If you haven't visited the Outerbanks of North Carolina, they are fantastic. Gorgeous. Because it is such a gorgeous location, it makes it easy to make a mini-vacation out of your race trip.
Places to stay for the race are relatively easy to come by since it is off-season. We stayed 3 nights at a great 2 bedroom dog-friendly beach cottage just 100 feet from the sand in Nags Head, with our own hot tub on the deck! And the owner/care-taker of the 8 units lives in one of the units with his two dogs, and was very friendly. His two dogs played with our dog, Kylie on the beach. The place is called My Lagoon, and we recommend it for anyone staying in or near Nags Head, especially if you are looking for a dog friendly place! And the hot tub feels amazing after a long run!
The Expo: This was probably the only downside to the race. It was a relatively small expo (which is fine for me, I don't really buy too much at expos anyway). The shirts were gender specific and I usually wear a XS-S. When we picked up the shirts, they were seriously skin tight and I could hardly get the neck hole over my head! I asked if we could exchange sizes at the Friday expo and they told us to come back Saturday night once everyone had picked up and we could exchange with what was left over. Well, we came back Saturday night, but so did almost every other woman in the race! Everyone had the same, way too tight issue, and everyone was trying to size up. After waiting in a long line, I eventually did get one that fit better, but I still haven't really worn it since. I think since it was my first half, I really wanted to have a shirt I could wear and remember the experience. I think a lot of female runners complained about the shirts and I think I remember hearing that they were switching the vendor for future races, so hopefully this would no longer be an issue.
The day before and after the race we ate at the Outer Banks Brewing Station, a wind-powered brewery with great beers, great food, and a huge "back yard" with picnic tables, a huge kids play area including a pirate ship playground. This was great as it allowed me to relax with a beer, while our daughter played out in the sunshine completely enclosed in the play area. We even took one of their wagons for a spin. She loved it!
The Beaches: There was almost nobody around and the weather was great, highs in the 70s. Kylie would take a break from chasing tennis balls by chasing birds up and down the beach. It was nice having nobody around for us to do that.
Events: The day before the race there is a 5k and 8k event and a pirate themed family fun fair. There were games, challenges, blow up houses and slides and face painting. We all had a lot of fun.
The Race: The race was an early start at 7:20am. There were plenty of port-a-potties at the start and people were good about staying in the correct starting corral. It did not feel cramped and I was able to settle into my pace pretty quickly without having to weave around other runners. The race was a point-to-point race from Kitty Hawk to Manteo, mostly into the wind the whole way. (A Kenyan team was attempting to break the half-marathon world record in this race but because of the wind "only" ran it at a 4:52 pace per mile for a time of 1:03, a full 4 or 5 minutes off the world record pace). Even with the wind, I beat my goal time of 2 hours 20 minutes and came in at 2 hours and 15 minutes! Though my true goal was just to finish!
The scenery along the way was through the well kept houses, sand dunes, with views of the water a good portion of the way. The course was mostly flat. The only elevation climb was the 35 foot tall Washington-Baum Bridge leading to Roanoke Island at mile 9. I just focused on what I was doing and the bridge was over before I knew it. The crowds along this course are great and so supportive! There is always someone along the way cheering you on. For a first long race, I found this very helpful.
The Finish: The race ending in downtown Manteo was a great place to finish. Manteo is on Roanoke Island, halfway across the sound between the mainland and the Outer Banks, where the first English colony was settled called Roanoke Colony--sometimes called the Lost Colony because the fate of all the people is unknown after they disappeared.. The town itself has a very quaint downtown right on the water with sailboats, etc.
They had a great beer garden at the finish. The sun was shining and it was great to sit and bask in the glow of accomplishment!
Extras: Since we stayed for an extra day after the race, we found lots of fun things to do. The NC Aquarium has one of its 3 sites there. We ate a great little place called Full Moon Cafe and Grille It had a good beer selection on tap, and had a great dog-friendly patio out front.
Another good place we found was called Wave Riders Cafe, a non-descript place in Nags Head that had some of the best breakfast bagel sandwiches we'd ever had. They pressed them like a panini and somehow they were so tasty that we went twice while we were there. What's neat was that they had leather couches and they put on PBS Kids so Avery would be entertained while we ate!
Fort Raleigh national historic site, where the Lost Colony was located.
A really neat part of the site was a theater there right on the water
It shows a play each night during the summer called Lost Colony, next time we are there during the play's season we are definitely going!
During the race expo we signed up for the Flying Pirate Half Marathon, which runs on a course just north of this half-marathon course in April every year.
Overall, fantastic race and I would definitely do it again!