Double Race Recap! Wilmington Historic Half & 5K

Wilmington Historic Challenge flatlay

Annnnd we’re back! I think the Wilmington Historic Half & 5K might be in a new tradition for me – the 16 cumulative miles make a wonderful pre-WDW Marathon practice run.

I’m darned glad I approach it as a practice run, too, because a speedy effort this was not. Let’s roll the tape, and by tape I mean it’s time for one of my famously wordy race recaps! (I know, I know; we’re kinda in the middle of a WDW trip report. Don’t worry, next post we’ll be right back to it.)

The Wilmington Historic Half consists of two races: the 5K, which begins at 7am, and the half marathon, which starts at 7:45am. All the races (they added a 10K this year) start and finish in Riverfront Park in downtown Wilmington. My hot tip for newbies would be to arrive before the 5K regardless of which race you’re running, as driving around the area gets more complicated once the race lineup kicks off.

Wilmington Historic Challenge pre-race selfie

My dad dropped me off at the Riverfront area around 6:15am, and I wandered a few laps of the park in preparation. Wilmington has unpredictable weather in the winter, and I was already regretting my decision to wear long pants; even my arm warmers seemed an increasingly bad idea. It was weirdly warm and muggy. There was steam coming off the river for… pretty much the whole morning, really.

The race day was formerly put on by Coastal Race Productions, but was recently acquired by Racebash. I think there were some transitional misses – perhaps Racebash isn’t used to putting on such a large race yet? For example, the line for bib pickup the day before was NUTS. Then on race morning, the real park/concert bathrooms were locked this year, and the number of porta potties set up was NOT enough for the number of runners.

Also weird: while the anthem was played about 15 minutes before the 5K start, there was no real preamble beyond this. I knew where the race start was already, and I knew the time because, you know, I was wearing a GPS watch, but the race start was indicating by a guy suddenly counting down and then saying “go!” He didn’t even have a bullhorn.

Wilmington Historic Challenge 5K Start


Right, so, the Wilmington Historic 5K was off! There was a lady off to the side herding everyone over the start timing pad to make sure they ran over it, as it didn’t fully cover the road. That’s one way to solve the problem!

As soon as I started I was like, ruh roh. Not in any major way, mind you – not like ruh roh, I’m hurt, sick, etc. – just like, ruh roh, this is going to be subpar. My running immediately felt like work and we hadn’t even gone a quarter mile yet.

Whelp, I’m nothing if not a trooper, so I marched forward… slowly. Like most 5Ks, there’s not a ton to say about the course because there’s scarcely more than 3 miles of it, but it proceeded about the same as it has previously per my memory. We ran along the river before knocking out a very quick out-and-back on Market Street. From there it was essentially back the way we came, looping our way around the downtown area before finishing on the other side of the Riverfront from the start.

Three miles in and I was already tired. 😅 Challenge runners collect all their medals together at the conclusion of the half, but I was able to accept a bottle of water and hustle over to the half start area.

Wilmington Historic Challenge half start


Same deal with the Wilmington Historic Half start – no real fanfare, just a guy who told us to go. Both races did start on time, though, which is something.

And yeah, I was still bushed at mile 3 of 16 for the day. But that’s okay; I’ve had tired legs before. I knew it would be okay, just not what I might’ve hoped it would be. Ya gotta train your mental fortitude sometimes just as much as your physical fortitude, ya know?

Thus I was off, first on a similar path as the start of the 5K. Our first major deviation took us over the Isabella Holmes Bridge, which luckily wasn’t too painful an incline. I stopped to take a photo here, not so much for the cityscape as to capture the extremity of the fog. Not every day you can SEE the humidity.

Wilmington Historic Challenge view from the bridge

Miles three through five were along the highway, this long stretch being punctuated by two bridges. The second of which was the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, which if you’ve read my Battleship Half Marathon recap you already know is not known to be a friend of mine. This incline was painful, but hey, at least I didn’t have to do it twice this time.

And I was still running! That’s always good. I’m so spoiled by the like-clockwork nature and frequency of the water stops for runDisney races; running from water stop to stop doesn’t work as well as a strategy outside of the runDisney bubble. I managed it, but it felt like much more of a slog. Oh, and I was hot, which was weird for me but there you are. By the end of the race my arm warmers had been pushed to wristlets.

It did help my morale to remember that I was three more miles in than my watch was telling me (I stopped and restarted it for each individual race). Like, yeah, I was drooping a bit, but I was actually on mile eight, not mile five, and that’s halfway, baby!

Now we were a residential area of Wilmington, with a convenient little sidewalk trail. We trotted past houses for about a mile, then spent the next four miles or so circling Greenfield Lake. Obviously my energy was really starting to flag at this point, but my spirits were bolstered by some of the scenery; it’s a cute, almost Normal Rockwellian area, with lots of random little wooden bridges and outcroppings.

And then we were back on Front Street and in the home stretch! We spent about a mile there before hanging a left and bopping onto the boardwalk along the river. This is always a funny spot to run as the boardwalk isn’t closed off to pedestrian, and you often run past some very confused individuals. Also NO THANKS AT ALL to the lady sitting on the bench and smoking!

Finally, finally, that last mile was over; a hard right and there was the finish line. I dug in a bit after the traditional end-of-the-line kick, but I didn’t have much in reserves. It was, as I said, not a good race for me. What can ya do.

I grabbed my medals and a bottle of water before planting me in an egregiously long free beer line. Like, hella long. Like so long and slow to move I ended up abandoning it. No free beer for me, just a ride home and a hot shower.

Wilmington Historic Challenge beer line


I hope I didn’t seem to terrifically negative during this whole recap. The 2023 Wilmington Historic Half wasn’t a great race for me, but I got it done. I think I might be in a bit of a slump right now, but that’s okay! You can’t always be killing it, or where would the endurance even come in?

This year’s race was also a bit more disorganized; I think Racebash just needs time to find its footing. There were a lot of long lines involved that did not materialize in years past. That being said, I’m sure they learned a lot from their inaugural outing, and I bet next year is even better! Lord knows I hope I am. 😅

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

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