By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on November 7, 2022
On the weekend of Nov. 13, around 1,500-1,600 runners will be on hand on for the Outer Banks Marathon and related events. There’s a couple of shorter races on Nov. 12 leading up to the main event, but the Sunday morning Towne Bank Marathon and Half Marathon is really the focus of the weekend.
Half marathons have been growing in popularity over the past few years, and 2022 is no exception. There are already approximately 1,000 runners signed up for the Half Marathon this year, according to Debbie Luke, the Executive Director of Outer Banks Sporting Events, the organization that runs the Marathon Weekend. That’s a significant increase from the approximately 575 runners who competed in 2019, the last time the race was held. There was no race in 2020 because of COVID and last year’s Marathon and Half Marathon were cancelled because of weather.
Included in those 1,000 runners participating in the Half Marathon will be about 200 members of the 50 States Half Marathon Club. Founder and president of the Colorado-based club, Nicole Blomgren, says the Outer Banks seems to have a lot of what the members wants in a race destination.
“A lot of people were excited [with] the Outer Banks,” she said. “It’s a vacation town. It’s a beach town…The ocean is always fun, especially for the people who live in the middle of the US, away from the ocean. I think if you hold any event on the ocean, it kind of makes it like a vacation feel.”
Blomgren founded the 50 States Half Marathon Club in 2008 “to offer a club that catered more to the half marathoners, that had interest in running in all 50 states,” she wrote in an email to the Voice.
It is not, she stressed in an interview, about being the fastest runner. Rather it’s all about participation, finding half marathons in all 50 states and finishing at least one race in every state.
The number of runners who take on the challenge of a full marathon has been declining for some time, but overall half marathon participation has remained steady, and may have even grown a little.
Blomgren said the shorter course allows a different way to participate. “It’s that a half marathon is really not a race anymore. It’s an experience…there are so many people that are in the back-of-the-pack type people, that are walkers or are worried that they’re not going to finish if there’s a hard cut-off time.”
The cutoff time is a significant consideration. For many long-distance races, runners must complete the course in a certain amount of time or they will not receive credit for finishing the race or an official time. That fact that Outer Banks Sporting Events was willing to work with her was important for Blomgren.
“(They) were willing to be flexible with the finish time for our ‘back of the pack’ half marathon walkers and slower runners,” she wrote in an email.
The course crosses Colington Road. The intersection at Veteran’s Drive, by First Flight High School, will be controlled by law enforcement during the race. However, Luke notes, police control of the intersection may be over by the time the “back of the pack” half marathoners that get to the intersection. They can still cross the road using the light, and when they complete the course, they will be accommodated.
“They may have to push the button at the intersection there to cross, but we’ll make sure they have an official time when they finish,” she said.
This will not be the first time Blomgren has been on the Outer Banks, although her previous visit was a while ago.
“I was out to the OBX way back in the early 2000’s to meet two half siblings for the first time,” she said in the email. “That’s a long story in itself, but I enjoyed exploring the OBX area and enjoyed my stay.”
As for this event, “The OBX has been fabulous to work with, from the event organizers, as well as the Hilton Garden Inn Kitty Hawk, where most of our members are staying, as well as where our big member party and awards night will be held,” Blomgren wrote in her email. “We’ll have close to 200 members participating in the OBX Marathon & Half Marathon and close to 250 at our big member party and awards night.”
The 50 States Half Marathon Club has about 1,600 members Blomgren said. Most of them are from the United States, although some live in Canada. There is a Canada Provinces Half/Full Marathon Challenge as well as a number of other challenges, including a seven-continents challenge and a 100 Half Marathons Challenge. But most members are working to complete the 50 states challenge.
“Some have done it in a year, which I think is absolutely crazy,” she said. “We have other members that have been members for over 10 years. And some of them still aren’t done. And then I have some members that maybe wrap it up in about five, six or seven years.”
To sign up for the OBX TowneBank Marathon & Half Marathon, Surf Pediatric & Family Medicine 8K, 5K, and Fun Run on Nov. 12-13 or to volunteer visit https://obxse.com/.
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