Wilmington athletes compete in amazing race

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Two dozen runners traveled from Wilmington last weekend to run the Boston Marathon. Half the team’s members were from the Wilmington Road Runners, the other 12 were trained by Without Limits’ Tom Clifford.

Though they did not physically run together, their times are grouped together to compile a team result in addition to their individual standings.

Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper and Wilmington Road Runner club member, qualified for the Boston Marathon during the 2014 Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon. Burdette was in the first wave of qualifiers, among hundreds of runners in the eighth corral. The 30,337 racers were divided into four waves according to qualifying times, then further into eight corrals so that runners of similar paces begin together.

The elite wave of Kenyans, Ethiopians and fastest Americans start the race, followed by the wheelchair racers, Burdette explained during an April 21 phone interview.

Burdette said the Boston event was an amazing race, “but it was a tough day to run the marathon. The weather conditions were pretty bad.”

Temperatures, he said, were in the 40s with prevailing rains for most of the race April 20.

Headwinds, said Tom Clifford, who placed 79th overall, were 21 miles per hour.

Burdette, who trained all year for his first Boston Marathon, and said it’s really not possible to train for extreme weather conditions.

“There’s not a lot you can do about rain on race day,” Burdette said.

Clifford moved up 25 places from his 2014 finish and came in at 2:29:27, five seconds faster than last year.

Burdette came within eight minutes of his personal goal.

“I had hoped to finish around 3:15 and I finished around 3:23,” Burdette said.

Burdette also said his training was interrupted by a bout of strep throat and some other issues.

“I didn’t feel like I got to train quite as  good as I would have liked to have, but that’s just how things happen sometimes,” he said.

Clifford’s training was impacted by the timing of the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon he leads annually around the third week of March, one of the high weeks in the training plan in which he should be training his hardest.

“This race is always a challenge for me,” Clifford said during an April 21 phone interview, “because of organizing Quintiles. I literally can’t train that entire week. I want to do Boston every year because I love it.”

Clifford prepped his runners with site specific work in Cary’s Umstead Park and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for downhill and uphill training runs.

“Boston’s pretty much either down or up, there’s no flat,” Clifford said.

The history of race made an impact on both runners.

“It’s where running began,” Clifford said, “where running was born. It’s so old, it’s in the 119th year, the first marathon ever. You really feel the energy there.”

Clifford attended the blessing of the runners Sunday, April 19 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Copley Square.

“They relate how much running relates to life and how your fans are your supporters; that’s just the atmosphere,” Clifford said. “Millions of people come out and watch the race.”

Burdette, who attended last year as a spectator, said last year’s race bore a somber tone because of the 2013 bombing. Running it this year, he felt the uplifiting presence of those spectators.

“The way that Boston and the other towns outside of Boston along the route really get into the race,” Burdette said.

The crowds are supportive of the runners, he said.

“Virtually the entire course is lined with people. … For 26 miles there are people yelling on both sides of the road, people cheering you on, they bring their families out. They come out and cut up orange slices for you. The universities along the way get into it. It’s a big deal for Bostonians.”

email marimar@luminanews.com

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