After a tossing turning night of fitful sleeping, I was already awake when our alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. last Sunday morning. We quickly dressed and headed downstairs to grab a banana and juice on our way out of the hotel and onto to Kitty Hawk. Much to our surprise and pleasure, the hotel management had prepared bagged breakfasts for all race participants. It’s those little things that mean a lot to customers, and we both heartily recommend the Hampton Inn in Corolla, NC for anyone visiting the area.
We rode through the predawn darkness down a long, narrow, two-lane road surrounded by some sort of dense vegetation. It was spooky but nice, especially when coupled with the anticipation of what was ahead. By the time we left the two-lane road for the four lane one leading into the more populated areas of Kitty Hawk and Nag’s Head, the traffic was already becoming quite congested. DH dropped me off at the race start on Memorial Drive and headed out to meet our sister-in-law Becky.
The pre-race moments are always awesome. It’s something I can’t explain. Listening to the banter around me, I love picking up snippets of conversation. There’s always a feeling of tense excitement—love it. I walked over to look at the beach and was delighted to see so many photo shoots going on. Fun. After that, I stretched a little and sort of ambled about amongst the crowd. To no avail, I looked for my brother and his son. Never did spot them, probably because they were in what was dubbed the first “corral,” and I was in the last. Then there’s the fact that there were 3500 people mingled there.
Time passed, and I heard the strains of the National Anthem over a loud speaker. The crowd grew hushed, and everyone turned to face a small flag flying from a beach house. It was an emotional moment, and I felt so thankful to be there with my “fellow Americans” to participate in a event that would take place at the absolute edge of our continent.
The gun fired three times before the slow pokes like me in the third corral were allowed to take off. I don’t have time or energy to write about all my thoughts, observations, or impressions of the morning. Suffice it to say that they were all good. Sure I was tired. Sure I thought I’d NEVER get over that darned bridge crossing over to Manteo. But still, it was memorable, every single mile.
Okay, some quick recollections include:
- The way the entire community came out to support us with water, Gatorade, cheers, and enthusiasm. Even within the neighborhoods, people stood in their yards, some dressed in costumes. The most original group included some people dressed in black and white “chain gang” outfits holding signs warning that dropouts would be put in the stockade or forced to walk the gangplank. I needed a good laugh about that time. In one driveway, I saw a little boy with a parrot next to him. Cool.
- The awesome splendor of the beautiful day. Sunny but not hot. Cool but not cold. Breezy but not overly so. And everywhere I looked, it was blue blue blue blue blue. It was one of those mornings that makes you think, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.”
- The variety of people I passed and who passed me. Young, old, in-between, skinny, chubby…you name it, they were there. One man with whom I paced myself was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional.” Nice motto.
- The little signs along the way that kept you moving along to see what was next. One of my favorites was, “What do you call a fat chimpanzee?” 100 yards later, there was the answer: “A chunky monkey.
- The well-marked route and the numerous water stops.
- The local hospital and its clean restroom facilities.
- Listening to my iPod. A week later, I’m remembering Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love” as I finally came out of the last neighborhood before getting to the bridge.
- Coming into the last stretch listening to “Sweet Inspiration” when my brother David came sidling up to finish part of the last leg with me.
- FINISHING at last and getting two bottles of water and a peanut butter sandwich. There were bagels, bananas, apples, and oranges too.
After soaking up the atmosphere and taking some pictures, we made our way back to the car. Problem. We couldn’t leave. The car was parked right near the finish which was good, and yet it faced the road where the walkers and runners were still coming in. Becky, John, and I sat in the car while David turned lemons into lemonade by cheering the finishers who passed in front of us. Otis went over to talk to the policeman about helping us get out when there was a gap in the finishers. I got out of the car to take some more pictures of the finish line and of the lovely town of Manteo.
FREE AT LAST, we freshened up and dined together before heading in separate directions. They had an hour and a half drive in front of them. We, on the other hand, had around seven. It was a long, long way home, and yet I have to admit that parts of the trip were pretty memorable. Like when he asked me to sing “Amazing Grace,” and then after two verses asked if we could listen to tunes on my iPod. That’s when the fun really began because we sang to most of the songs, and man did we belt it out!
Tuckered out, we arrived in good old Camden around 10:00 p.m., and I think a good time was had by all. Will we go back? I don’t know about the “we” part, but I will. It’s too beautiful of an area and too grand of an event not too. Maybe you can join me next year. At least think about it.