Here’s my 2023 Oak Island Marathon recap with a spoiler from the top:
I qualified for Boston (2024) and earned a personal record…
…at 41 years old after 20 years of running marathons!
Why I ran
I’m training for a 100 miler right now, so my long efforts are races. In this vein, I did a 50 miler last month and I’ll do another marathon in two weeks.
All that said, my stretch goal was to qualify for Boston at this race.
I don’t yet have a qualifier for 2024 and securing one early takes the pace pressure off the remainder of the year.
As a 41 year old woman, I need a 3:40 to do that per BAA qualifying standards.
And farther, I need to secure about a 5 minute buffer to ensure I actually get to register.
Boston has a rolling registration process, where the fastest runners in each division register first. So, there’s a possibility you can qualify but it still won’t be fast enough to race.
This is what happened to me in 2019 for the 2020 race- I qualified with 1:15 to spare but when it was all said and done I needed 1:39 or more buffer.
With all that in mind, I had a 3:35 target for this race.
Tip: I love Marathon Guide’s pace band calculator (free!) for making a pace band, which gives you overall target times for each mile.
If you don’t have a laminator, you can just use packing tape to make it sweat proof.
Oak Island is about 40 minutes from our home- a very easy drive on the morning of. They offer same morning packet pick up, too!
The race begins at 6:45, which is great because it means I can be home and showered by lunch.
An early morning start doesn’t do any favors for the cold, though.
This is the third year I’ve done this race and while it wasn’t pouring rain this year, last year was really cold at the start too.
I had a throwaway jacket and this was the first year of three it warmed up enough to toss it- in other years, I’ve ended up wearing them the entire time!
Tip: save your mylar wraps post-race so you can be warm at the start of your next!
No mylar wrap? A trash bag works in the same way- cut out a hole for your head and arms.
We started with the east course half marathoners and it was nice to pace with a large group going the exact pace I needed.
The half marathon option at Oak Island has an east and a west course, which is cool because it means you can choose the race that suits your goal.
The east course is flat and fast but the west, while more challenging with inclines, has a wider cutoff time (6 hours), making it ideal for walkers.
Tip: study the race course prior to registration so you can set goals with the terrain in mind.
I knew I was pacing ahead of 3:35 by mile ten.
Still, that’s way too early to mentally attach to an outcome!
There are many ways to approach, but I like to mentally split my marathons into three parts:
First ten: set pace
Second ten: hold pace
Last 10K: race
The wind was a lot more harsh in this “hold” portion!
We did a switchback after the lighthouse and headed to the west side of the course, which included the only inclines:
A bridge over the Intercontinental Waterway!
“Hill” one: over the bridge, “hill” two: back.
Tip: mentally divide your race into smaller, manageable pieces.
During the race, focus only on the piece you are in!
Every race has a pain cave and mine was from about 21-23.
Not much to say here- just had to run through it.
I earned 1st Masters Female, 5th Female overall with a personal record time of 3:20:47!
Honestly? I thought my PRs were behind me. I’m 41 and busier than ever.
Prior to this, my record was 3:22:28 from Richmond 2021.
What can I say? Good prep meets opportunity:
Focused sleep hygiene, 80/20 nutrition, strength training alongside miles, and taking advantage of a good race day.
Who should do this race?
This race is an easy “yes” for someone traveling with a group of different fitness levels.
In addition to the full marathon and two different half courses, there is a 5K and 1 mile option.
It’s off season at the beach, so lodging will be inexpensive (and Brunswick county beaches are the best!).
It’s also a great option for the marathoner who wants a flat, fast marathon.
There will likely be a fair amount of wind (remember, I’ve done this one three times), but it’s a good trade for only two hills.
Thank you for a great event, Coastal Race Productions!
I’ll be back!
Next up for me? Myrtle Beach Marathon, another race-as-a-training.
You can find my running adventures and general ramblings on Instagram. Let’s connect!