The Coast Guard Marathon
The Coast Guard Marathon came on the scene in 2022 with an inaugural run. The event features a full marathon, half marathon and a 5K providing a race for all abilities and inclinations.
The event takes place in the small waterfront town of Elizabeth City where the Pasquotank River joins Albemarle Sound which is itself sheltered by the long linear Outer Banks. It makes sense that the Coast Guard would have a base at such a sheltered place that also has ocean access. It is a Coast Guard town and to me a great partnership exists between the town and the Coast Guard.
Mercedes and I are run tourists and often plan a mini getaway around a race over a long weekend of 2 to 3 days. The Coast Guard Marathon for us came up as a possible destination race because of a number of factors. Besides the perfectly flat course, there’s the cute town of Elizabeth City with it’s restaurants, brew pub, unique shops and waterfront. If staying longer it’s witching a short distance to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills where we first took flight, and the rest of the Outer Banks. I’m quite sure there is a lot more than that to explore given enough time.
On the morning of the race we left our hotel and made it downtown to the ample parking and found no trouble getting there in a timely manner. After a short walk we lined up at the starting line.
After the usual announcements we had the anthem and a flyover by a huge C-130 Coast Guard airplane in formation with a helicopter! The excitement built and I said “see you later” to Mercedes who was running the half marathon. I had no expectations as to my time having had a cold prior to the race but I felt great and was ready to go.
When the gun went I found that I was able to get right into my desired pace without the long stretches of walking and slower running you need to do in larger races. We ran out smartly and encountered the only “hill” on the course which I say tongue in cheek because it was a barely detectable gentle rise over a short bridge. From there…total flatness!
The first few miles of a marathon for me are sort of a settling in period. My cardio comes up slowly and by about 5 km or 3 miles, my breathing settles into a nice easy rhythm. My goal is to start off at my target race pace in a way that is efficient and relaxed. Last thing I want is to flirt with lactate threshold early.
The race around mile 2 is close to the water from then slowly turns inland. By mile 5 we are entering the Coast Guard air base where we pass the active runway! By the way, in the 2023 version we actually run on the runway on the way back so that’s an improvement I can’t wait for!
After the base we went back close to the waterfront through some scenic residential areas and did some loops around them. The mid-point of the race route takes runners around one of the last standing WWII airship hangars, a 20-story tall, dome-shaped structure on the waterfront! I found this to be a very interesting sight that really shows how huge these early airships were.
On the way back we run through the campus of Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college and the only four-year collegiate aviation education program in North Carolina. I can say that the steps of the buildings ew passed were full of some of the most enthusiastic cheering students ever! The energy was infectious and comes at a point in the race where you really start feeling it and cursing yourself for entering.
The last bit going back downtown comes at the time where you feel your worst because it’s almost over but still a few km to go. We ran through some neighborhoods where the residents cheered us and clapped and yelled encouragement all the way. The level of respect they showed for our efforts was heart warming. You push and push through these last blocks until the last right turn at the waterfront where you first see the finish arch!
I sort of knew that my goal time of sub 3:40 that I needed to qualify for Boston was not going to happen. The chest cold during the weeks leading up to the race may have been a factor but at the end of the day I just wasn’t up to it on the day. I was still happy to reach 3:42 on the clock at the finish. All in all a good day’s work.
After the Race
We were impressed with the coast Guard displays and booths staffed by active duty Coast Guard members. There were equipment demos, boats, educational conversations and more.
The awards were nicely done and I was honored to receive first place in the 55 to 59 age group. Being 59 at the time put me towards the high end of that group so I was surprised. Thanks!
Mercedes had run a great half marathon and joined me for the food and beers at the finish line which was also a very nice touch.
Overall this felt like a nice sized race without some o the madness of the big races where there is barely room to sit down after. We really enjoyed the after party!
Exploring Elizabeth City
Mercedes and I love to travel to races not just for such awesome races themselves, but to explore each new place we run in! Elizabeth City had som great scenic places to walk by the water and some great dining and shopping opportunities.
Our favourite place to grab a pint and relax is 7 Sounds Brewery. The waterfront location, great building, great beer and good people make this a relaxing place to visit.