Wilmington hosted Race 13.1, a new half marathon series, for the first time Feb. 22, and the race’s scenic course over the cross-city trail drew a range of ability levels and inspired a record-breaking performance by one runner.
Bill Shires from Charlotte took an early lead over 365 other half marathon competitors and raced across the finish line five minutes before his nearest rival. His final time, 1:18:57, is a new North Carolina record for the 50-55 age group.Shires said he typically runs the full marathon distance, but the timing of Wilmington’s Race 13.1 made the race a perfect tune-up for several upcoming marathons, including the Wrightsville Beach Marathon in late March.
He also knew if the race went smoothly he had the ability to set the record.
“You never know, but I felt good this week,” he said. “I liked going on the Greenway, it was nice to see Wilmington.”
One of the only struggles, Shires said, occurred late in the race. When the half marathoners took off from Lumina Commons at 7 a.m., the morning was still chilly and gray. Within minutes, the sun broke through the early morning fog and warmed the air to nearly 50 degrees, a dramatic contrast to the frigid temperatures of the days leading up to the event.
“It got a little hot towards the end,” he said, “after being dressed in multiple layers this whole week…I was starting to sweat.”
While Race 13.1 attracted a number of serious marathoners like Shires, the event’s flat, winding course and 5K and 10K options made the race accessible for a variety of runners.
Chandra Taylor traveled from Raleigh to compete in the 10K with her friends, Yolanda McGill and Gail Belvett. After McGill and Belvett finished the race they stood by, cheering as Taylor ran across the finish line minutes later.
“We had an agreement,” Taylor said, “I would call them if something happened to me, because I was bringing up the rear.”
As she pushed herself through mile after mile, Taylor said she found an extra boost of motivation each time she passed one of the giant green mile-marker flags.
“They said things like ‘too legit to quit’ and ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever,’” she said. “And the people along the way were so nice, the [traffic]cops were cheering…and the other runners.”
Race 13.1 regional vice president Dan Mercer said creating that inspirational atmosphere is a vital part of putting on the event.
“Our race shirts say ‘you can, you will’ on the back so if anyone wears that, and you’re behind them, you kind of get that extra motivation,” he said. “We try to have fun with it and be positive, that’s really what it’s about.”