On Saturday, March 26, I left out of Historic Corolla Park in Corolla, NC at 5 am with 86 other runners in hopes of reaching Hatteras, NC by 1 pm on Sunday. This is my journey of 100 miles via Highway 12 along the Outer Banks of NC.
The short version: Goal Achieved. 27 hours 27 minutes 13 seconds.
53 runners finished before the cutoff. I was finisher number 35.
This race was so hard. Even though you look at it on paper and think, it’s flat and pavement for 100 miles, it can’t be that bad (comparing to trail races with massive amounts of climbing and descending). But, it was. Even with favorable weather conditions it will cause every emotion you have inside to be on display at some point in time. This year, we had those favorable weather conditions as tailwinds carried me for 90 miles down to the turn at Buxton. There was no rain except for a few sprinkles a couple hours before sunset. You really could not ask for better weather at the Outer Banks.
I owe this race to my wife, Summer, for whom I would not have gotten to the finish without. She crewed me from start to finish.
I had a great first half of the race staying between 11-13 minute miles and hoping for a sub-24 hour finish. Leading up to the race, I was so familiar with the area of the second half that I just knew I needed to get past the bridge and I’d be familiar territory even though I would likely be doing most of it at night. With the Brasnight bridge in sight, I knew it was go time. However, I had already felt my race plans starting to unravel.
I was still running on the same pair of shoes I started with. This was a mistake as I put my second pair of shoes in the wrong drop bag which were sitting at mile 63 instead of already being on my feet from the mile 41 drop bag. As I came across the bridge, my feet were hurting very badly. Summer encouraged me and I continued on hoping these pains would go away.
She was there when the wheels of my race starting falling off after mile 55 and I was ready to drop at mile 57. She was there to tell me to quit whining and suck it up, that I signed up for this and I’m not stopping until the end. She was there to find me extra clothes, get me a Coke, find some spare shoes I’d never worn before out of the truck and get me laced up and send me on my way. She is the reason I finished.
She kept telling me I was doing great, showing me how far I had come with the awesome RaceJoy app and reminding me that everyone back home was following along with my progress in the app. Friends and family were sending cheers through the app and also texting Summer encouraging things to tell me. My kids were also watching my progress on the app and that was extra motivation to keep going and not give up on the goal I set for myself.
As night began to fall, I got a new life with the never worn before shoes and for the next 13 miles I still had a glimmer of hope that sub-24 was possible. The sunset over the sound was amazing but there was still work to be done. The ten mile section between 70 and 80 was full of long empty stretches of roads and a lot of mental conversations with myself as well as a few stories too long to mention here. But, Summer gave me non-running clothes I had not planned to wear until the finish and forced me to keep moving into the night.
By mile 80, sometime close to midnight, my feet were so wrecked that I could no longer run. My left foot felt as if it’d been hit with a bat on the top. With 20 miles remaining, walking 20-28 minute miles makes it feel like the finish line is an eternity away. But, as it’s said in Ultrarunning, just keep moving, one foot in front of the other. Keep doing that and you will get to the finish.…eventually. So, that’s what I did. Summer would drive a couple miles ahead and sleep until I arrived and then check on me and listen to me complain before sending me back out into the cold night to do it again, over and over. Again, without her I don’t know if I would have finished.
At times, I was sleep walking on Highway 12. Good thing it was the early pre-dawn hours and most people driving on the road were probably somehow affiliated with the race and knew there’d be these zombie-like characters roaming the road.
As I got into Hatteras, a new day was breaking. The second sunrise in a 100 mile race is rejuvenating. You find energy that wasn’t there before. Being sleepy is no longer a factor. And, you know you will be finished soon. Soon being a relative term, of course.
The desire to run was there for me but every time I tried to increase my pace my feet reminded me that they were not going to allow that so walking was the only option. I was passed by 6 people in the last 3-4 miles. I didn’t care. With less than 2 miles to go, my friend Justin called to give me some encouragement which distracted me from how bad everything hurt for a bit.
Soon enough, the finish line at The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum was in sight. But, unlike many ships that have sailed only to be sunk off the coast of the Outer Banks of NC, this ship was determined to sail across that finish line. With a few spectators and other runners watching, I dug deep to try to put together something that resembled running for the last 25 yards. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 27:27:13 and with that, my trip by foot along the Outer Banks from Corolla to Hatteras was over. All the training starting in October, the days getting up at 4am, the long back to back runs on the weekends, all the time committed to prepare for this, it was done. I had completed my goal. I finished the race.
My body will heal over time but the memories created from the almost 28 hours at the Outer Banks the last weekend in March of 2022 will live with me forever.
For those that were brave enough to toe the start line but didn’t quite make it to the finish, remember that true failure is not having the courage to start in the first place. You did the work, put in the effort day in and day out. If you didn’t make it to the finish, it’s ok. You have stories to tell, you have a reason to come back next year, you have motivation to dig deeper because now you’ve been there in the moment and you know what you’ve got to improve on and you can do it. Don’t give up on your dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. Believe in yourself and just keep moving. One foot in front of the other. Eventually, you will get there.
Thank you to Trivium Racing, the race directors and all the volunteers that made this weekend possible. It was a memorable experience that I will never forget.