The Wilmington Historic Half Marathon & 5K: so nice I did it twice, twice!
I’m sure that opening was just about as subtle as a hammer to the skull, but I’ll explain. You can run the Wilmington Historic 5K at 7am, or you can run the Wilmington Half Marathon at 7:45am… or you can run both!
Last year I ran both because just the half was sold out, but this time I signed up for the challenge purposefully for one simple reason: at a total of 16+ miles, it basically knocks out my pre-Walt Disney World Marathon run for me. I love it when somebody else has to plot out my course and my water stops!
The other nice thing was that having now run the race(s) before, and everything being basically the same, I quasi-knew what I was doing. The weather looked cooperative – starting in the upper 50s with a high in the low 70s, which is my kinda running temperature, and mostly cloudy – and I was able to stick with my planned outfit. Heck, I slept all the way in to like 5:25am because I was comfortable with the location and layout of the start area.
I still arrived with plenty of time to hit the (real!) bathroom and wander about aimlessly, as is my wont. But not too early, and shortly it was time for…
THE WILMINGTON HISTORIC 5K
The key to running the 5K and half back to back is this: don’t be a hero. These races are self-seeded, and I set myself back further than I would normally with the intention of holding a comfortable pace. After minimal preamble consisting almost entirely of a very nice prerecorded a cappella version of the national anthem, we were off right on the dot of 7am.
It’s a nice, simple course exclusive contained by downtown Wilmington, which is a pretty cute riverfront area if you’re not familiar. You know, cobblestones on many of the streets and suchlike. We did end up on some regular roads in what felt like comparatively boring residential areas, but that’s to be expected. Maybe these distressingly blurry photos will help you visualize it.
The end of the race ran along the Waterfront boardwalk, which spiced things up a bit, but I knew I had way more Waterfronting ahead of me in the half and mostly just concentrated on keeping my pace relaxed.
I realize this is hardly a scintillating recap, but honestly, my race was pretty chill; I had so far to go and still suffered from some hamstring and Achilles issues in my right leg, so I just wanted to avoid trouble. In fact, I was so chill that I finished about 20 seconds slower than last year. But this didn’t bother me, because I was there to play the long game.
Challenge participants don’t get their medals and such until after the half, so I grabbed a provided bottle of water, snuck in one more bathroom break, and lined up for the half.
THE WILMINGTON HISTORIC HALF MARATHON
The half marathon start is one street over from the 5K start and also self-seeded. I positioned myself so that I could see the 2-hour pacer without actually being close enough to be part of the group, which felt like a reasonable place to begin under the circumstances.
I think we did the anthem again? But I wouldn’t swear to it. At any rate, the half took off at 7:45am precisely. If you’re thinking of doing the challenge, don’t assume you’ll have wiggle room with the time; allegedly no late starts allowed!
The beginning of the race, although starting one street over, traverses a similar course to the start of the 5K, and I found myself covering familiar ground as I ran up Market Street. We suffered through a brief out-and-back, but it wasn’t too bad.
Alas, we soon left downtown charm behind in favor of highways and BRIDGES. Oh, SO MANY BRIDGES. Were there this many bridges last year?
This of course included the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, which I DID NOT APPRECIATE. Like, I ran the whole thing, but also, bleh. Dang inclines! Note to self: this is in fact a slightly hilly course. Try to remember that next time.
Admittedly this did yield some pretty good views, including this one of Battleship North Carolina:
After a little more time on the road, we took a turn into more residential areas. Given how nice the day was becoming, I was rather surprised there weren’t more spectators out here, but Wilmington has lots of races. Maybe the locals are bored with us.
No matter; we left the jaded suburbanites behind for a bit and ran into a park, where things got real picturesque real quick. I mean, even more than halfway through my second race of the day, I had to admit this was cute:
We wound up circling the entire little lake, and while it wasn’t always as pretty as the above, at least it wasn’t an out-and-back. I respect circling a body of water by comparison.
Happily, by the time we left the lake behind, we had less than a 5K to go! That did mean a little more time on random roads, but we were punted back into downtown Wilmington again in short order. You know what that means: time for more Waterfront boardwalk!
As is often the case, I have managed to skate through the vast majority of this race recap without mentioning how my personal race was going. The answer is: not bad! I didn’t suffer any injury flareups, and my decision to actually bring my own race fuel this time around seemed to be helping. I was tired, but I was by no means beat down.
In fact, far from hitting a wall, I managed to slap a smile on my race and pick up the pace as I pounded onto the boardwalk. Then – honestly, I don’t why – about halfway through the area I managed to slip past two other people during a pinch point of a turn and just… took off? Not like FAST fast, but a good song came on my headphones, I knew I had less than a mile to go, and I WENT.
And went and went! You know how sometimes you speed up like WHEEEE!!! and then… you have to keep doing it because the finish is farther than you thought? But you DO do it, because you committed? Yeah, it was like that. I surged toward the finish not because I wanted to, but because I had to. The end is no time to slow down.
There concluded my 5K + 13.1 mile adventure, and boy were my legs MAD. On the flip side, boy was my brain happy! Because although I was 20 seconds slower on my 5K than last year, I was 6 MINUTES AND ONE SECOND FASTER than last year’s half. Yippee!
THE THRILLING POST-RACE CONCLUSION
I had entertained thoughts of running an extra mile around the neighborhood after the race, just to make it a proper long run. Having arrived at the moment, however, I said HAHA! to past me and did not do that. (Future me did not expect me to be all sprint-y at the end, doncha know.)
Instead I marched myself over to the biergarten, picked up my free beer, and watched as more runners streamed under the finish line banner. Also I pet two dogs. Please do bring your dogs to races so I can pet them.
Volunteers were also handing out bottles of water, but the only post-race food was the free-to-runners BBQ. Which sounds great in theory, but in practice I find I’m not really feeling anything that heavy right after 16 miles. The beer, though – hell yes I would like to drink some bread, y’know?
Anyway, that was what I would like think was a fairly successful Wilmington Historic Half Marathon and 5K! While I was nowhere near a PR or anything like that, I am overall pleased with my result. And as, like I said, this race is set up conveniently as a pre-WDW Marathon long run, I can see myself making it a new annual tradition. I hope next year people bring more dogs.
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