During the 2014 Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon, the new grates on the recently renovated Heide Trask Drawbridge proved hazardous for some runners, but race director Tom Clifford believes he now has the solution for the 2015 race.
Clifford and a small team tested out a 50-foot by 4-foot heavy rubber mat along one lane of the drawbridge early Saturday, Dec. 6, and Clifford said the mat greatly improved the running surface.
“If you rated running over the structure as it is I would say it might be a four out of 10 but with the rubber mat it is probably a nine out of 10,” Clifford said. “It is not perfect but it is way better.”
During the 2013 race, one contestant fell on the grate, had to be taken to the emergency room for her injuries, and Clifford said she could not run for about six to eight weeks. With the mats in place, Clifford hopes contestants that may fall will be able to bounce back up without injury.
“It would be like falling on a basketball floor versus the grates so I think the biggest thing is that it would not be a race-ending fall,” he said. “It is a fall you might just be able to get back up from.”
The mat Clifford used for the test was borrowed from Bearing Marine as the rubber is usually used on yachts. Clifford said new mats would have to be purchased for the 2015 race, which could prove expensive.
“Financially it is probably going to be something we are going to have to invest in but we are going to do it regardless, even if it costs us more money,” he said. “I want people to know we are trying and we will do what we can to make the course the best ever.”
Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said he still needs to work out a few of the details with Clifford for installing the mats on race day but the town will likely approve their use if Clifford thinks they are the solution.
Clifford said rubber mats are used to cover bridges in other marathons around the country, like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
While he is going through the process of pricing the mats, Clifford plans to have the running lane covered and improved for the 2015 Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon March 22.
email [email protected]