Oak Island Marathon 2023

The Oak Island Marathon

Just after new year's 2023, I saw an ad for what looked like a really fun marathon in Oak Island, North Carolina. I know that I had the 2023 Coast Guard Marathon just 2 weeks after Oak Island, but I thought it would make a really fun way to do my last long run before the Coast Guard. I also thought it would make a really great valentines gift for my wife Mercedes who loves run tourism as much as I do. So I signed us up, me in the full and Mercedes in the half.

The race course is super flat except for a bridge at 22 miles (35 km) that crosses over the intracoastal waterway. That bridge is a surprisingly tough climb that you do outbound and again inbound! Following the beach partly and going through some amazing quiet neighborhoods and passing the historic lighthouse, the race provides a lot of amazing sights.

Although the race is mostly on road, there were sections where we were made to run on the sidewalk! I was surprised to find this out, and Mercedes mentioned a runner had tripped on the uneven sidewalk and fallen. I also didn't like the fact that traffic was allowed to mix with runners on the east loop although under the control of the police. To me as a race director I would close half a lane and leave the other 1.5 lanes open to traffic. Using cones to divide the race from the cars would make it a lot safer. The turnaround for the marathon was before the turnaround for the east loop half as well. I myself added a short extra 20 meters or so before realizing marathon turns there. There was no sign or volunteer at all, only a spray painted semi circle arrow on the pavement. If you are not looking down at your feet you will miss this turnaround. Lots of runners missed this!

Criticisms aside, the after party was good with some BBQ and a beer. Lots of good people and conversations and war stories! The organizers are great people and I was happy to collect 1st place in my age group and get an extra medal for that. Overall the race was well done and the volunteers were fantastic. I truly want criticisms mentioned to be taken as constructive and I'm sure that next year these things will be rectified.

Starting line

Race day - Lining up!

Our AirBnB was just a block from the start/finish of the race. This made it so easy to make sure we had all our bathroom business, small breakfast and coffee and everything else done before showing up. No potty lines for us! Our host Barb was an amazing genuinely warm person who has one of the nicest places we have stayed in yet!

By 6:35 we were at the line 10 minutes ahead and the music was pumping. The sun wasn't up so it was chilly with about +2C temperature and I was happy to be Canadian so I was fine in shorts and my tech running shirt. After the anthem we were off promptly at 6:45. Because the east course half marathon was starting at the same time as us, I got to run with Mercedes for a little bit until things spread out.

The Race

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.

2023 Coast Guard Marathon Medals

Starting line

The 2023 Coast Guard Marathon

As an ambassador for 2023 I'll definitely be back March 2-4, 2023 for this amazing weekend! Use code Nick15 for a 15% discount when you register!

Let’s Run this Runway! Introducing The Coast Guard Marathon. You will be SOARING with excitement when you experience the newest race route addition… You will be RUNNING the RUNWAY! The in-person 26.2 and 13.1 routes include running the historic, active, airstrip thanks to Air Station Elizabeth City. Register today for YOUR chance to take flight!

Some Amazing Facts!

  • The Coast Guard Marathon is one of the flattest road races in the world.
  • The Coast Guard Marathon is the ONLY sanctioned road race of The United States Coast Guard
  • This event is a USA Track and Field-sanctioned event
  • The 26.2-mile course is a Boston Qualifier
  • The race weekend takes place in Elizabeth City, North Carolina which is home to one of the largest Coast Guard Bases in the Country and a designated Coast Guard City
  • The race weekend offers a Full Marathon (26.2 miles), Half Marathon (13.1 miles), 5K (3.1 miles), and Semper Paratus Challenge.
  • In 2022, runners from all 50 states and 4 countries participated in both in-person and virtually.
  • Hosted in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the marathon and half marathon courses will run along the Pasquotank River and through the U.S. Coast Guard Base and Air Station with a rare chance to traverse the military airstrip. Along the way, runners will see Elizabeth City State University, a Historically Black College and the home to North Carolina’s only four-year college aviation education program. The marathon route also features a loop around one of the U.S.'s last standing WWII airship hangars, a 20-story tall, dome-shaped structure on the waterfront. All race routes being and end in Elizabeth City’s historic downtown district where a post-race celebration will greet finishers.


Race Website: https://coastguardmarathon.com/

Registration Website: https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/ElizabethCity/CoastGuardMarathon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CoastGuardMarathon/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coastguardmarathon/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/clubs/coastguardmarathon

Official Store: https://coastguardmarathon.company.site/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC00PraxciZNEen99AQDQA3Q

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