Runners flock to the City of Oaks big run

As runners arrive from north, overseas, about 5,000 take to streets

ccampbell@newsobserver.comNovember 5, 2012 

  • By the numbers Marathon runners registered: 1,140 Marathoners who finished: 871 Participants registered (all four races): 5,447 Runners who finished (all four races): 4,155 Volunteers: About 700 Miles traveled: 26.2 Raleigh streets closed for the race: 18 Fastest time: 2 hours, 33 minutes, 57 seconds (Tim Surface of Raleigh) Top prize: $1,300

— About 5,000 people on Hillsborough Street had the perfect excuse to drink beer at 10 a.m. on a Sunday.

Lonerider Brewing pints – along with tables full of carb-heavy snacks – were among the rewards for runners who finished this year’s Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon races. Most, however, were there for the challenge and the bragging rights.

The race set a new record for participation, up from 3,800 registered last year. The figure includes the full marathon, 13.1-mile half-marathon and the Old Reliable 10k.

Some of this year’s runners signed up at the last minute after the New York City Marathon was canceled after superstorm Sandy crippled the city. Organizers added 100 slots to make room for the influx and still sold out for the first time since the marathon began in 2007.

Others traveled even farther to check out the marathon’s new course, which took runners up a new section of greenway to Shelley Lake.

Jack Brooks, 60, came from St. Albans, England, to mark his 300th marathon. “I liked it so much two years ago, that’s why I chose it,” said Brooks, who wore a black-and-white striped convict’s outfit to celebrate the milestone.

Brooks said he runs 50 miles a week to keep in shape for up to 30 marathons each year.

“It gets harder as you get older,” he said.

He crossed the finish line just ahead of a much younger New York City police officer. To his credit, the officer said he’d been working double shifts all week. He was taking advantage of his first break since the storm to check out Raleigh’s marathon.

While this year’s switch from an Umstead Park route to the greenway trail was billed as faster and flatter, some runners said the city’s new House Creek Greenway left them winded. “The hills at Mile 20 and 23 are just tough,” said John Rhodes of Fairfax, Va., who still managed to complete the course in just over 3 hours.

Here are other highlights from Sunday’s marathon:

6:54 a.m., N.C. State Belltower: Runners – marathon, half-marathon and 10k race participants – pack two blocks of Hillsborough Street behind the starting line. Some jump or run in place to warm up in the 40-degree chill; others just look sleepy.

7:31 a.m., Cameron Village: The first marathon runner reaches the 6.2-mile mark, about a quarter of the way to the finish. He’s a few minutes ahead of the first 10k finishes, who’ll end their jaunt through downtown at Cameron Village. Cheering crowds line the route, waving motivational signs and cowbells.

8:22 a.m., Clark Avenue: Runners take advantage of a table full of water cups without slowing down. The necessary littering that follows worries a young boy walking by. “They dropped their cups on the ground,” he tells his mom. A race volunteer wielding a rake tries to keep the street clear of trash without tripping any runners in the process.

8:50 a.m., greenway behind Crabtree Valley Mall: It turns out it’s easier to keep cars off the street than to keep bikes off Raleigh’s greenway system. A few cyclists slip in among the runners and have to be flagged down by marathon volunteers.

9:02 a.m., Crabtree Valley Avenue: A spectator taunts runners with what might be the day’s most clever homemade sign: “Paul Ryan is already finished.” The vice-presidential candidate had falsely claimed he once ran a marathon in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

9:33, N.C. State Belltower: Marathon winner Tim Surface, 34, crosses the finish line, passing scores of half-marathon runners along the final stretch of Hillsborough Street.

1 p.m., N.C. State Belltower: The last of the marathoners cross the finish line, 6 hours after they started running.

Campbell: 919-829-4802

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