Crews cruises to half marathon finish line

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Wilmington runner Hugh Crews felt strong when he crossed the finish line to win a local half marathon Feb. 21, which he said is a good sign since he’ll double that distance next month during the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon.

Crews finished first overall in Wilmington’s second annual Race 13.1 with a final time of 1:21:05. Fellow Wilmington athlete Scott Perry paced alongside Crews for most of the race and finished 22 seconds behind him in second.

“I was just trying to hang with him,” Perry said after the race.

The two local runners led the pack of 612 half marathon participants on a course that started in Lumina Commons and followed the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail along Eastwood Road and through UNCW’s campus.

Raleigh runner and businessman John Kane created the Race 13.1 series in 2014 and held half marathons in five North Carolina cities that year. Since then the series has grown, and this year organizers plan to hold 25 races in 10 different states.

Organizers brought the series to Wilmington for the first time in 2015, not only because they thought the event would be a good fit for the city but because race director Dan Mercer has a personal connection to the area.

He played basketball at UNCW, he said, and he found several ways to involve his alma mater in the event. Not only did the course meander through the college’s campus, but some of the event proceeds benefitted UNCW’s volleyball team, whose players volunteered at one of the race’s aid stations.

Compared to last year’s event, Mercer described this year’s race as “just a little bit bigger and better in every way.”

The event also offered a 10K and 5K — won by Durham’s Gene Burinskiy and Fayetteville’s Derrick Barcliff Jr., respectively — which brought total participation up to 975, about 400 more than last year. Organizers also added another aid station, where volunteers handed out water and cheered on runners, and adjusted the course slightly based on last year’s feedback.

Participants traveled from all over the East Coast to participate, but local knowledge paid off for the winner.

“I train on the Cross-City Trail all the time,” Crews said, “so it’s very familiar.”

Crews said the half marathon helped him gauge how he should pace himself when he races 26.2 miles next month. Still, he admitted, the full marathon will be “a completely different beast.”

email emmy@luminanews.com

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