By Connie Leinbach
Joseph Caropolli achieved his goal Sunday and won Ocracoke’s first half-marathon race.
While he didn’t beat his personal record, Caropolli, of Buxton, ran the 13.1 miles in one hour, 22 minutes and 40 seconds.
“I caught the wind and that slowed me down,” he said as he cooled down in the Gaffer’s parking lot where the race ended. “That wind got me. It felt like the run between Buxton and Avon.”
He was referring to the wind that hit the runners as they headed out of the village on Highway 12 in the last segment of the race that first went through the village.
Not far behind him was Chito Guerrero, 35, of Ocracoke, with a time of one hour, 24 minutes and 20 seconds.
“Chito was footsteps behind me all the way,” Caropolli said. “I never count him out.”
Guerrero, who hardly looked winded, had also come in second Saturday in the 5 K behind Kevin Perez, 18, of Ocracoke.
He said it was a good race.
“If I hadn’t run yesterday I could have won today,” Guerrero said about the half marathon. Caroppoli sat Saturday’s race out.
His friend and training buddy Keith Gray, who had won the 10K race, ran alongside Caroppoli in the half marathon–not competitively but to pace and encourage him.
“Keith got me through the last seven miles,” Caroppoli said. “It’s encouraging to have someone to talk to.”
Caropolli’s wife Kristine wasn’t too far behind him, placing 26th with a time of 1:59:12.
Marissa Gross of Ocracoke was the top woman runner with a time of one 1:38:11 seconds. She placed sixth overall.
She noted that running through the village with cheering spectators along the way gives the runners interest and that long, empty stretches can be demotivating.
Nonetheless, 112 runners crossed the finish line, with the last runner, Louise Perry of Greensboro, crossing last at three hours, 37 minutes and 15 seconds.
“The last runner is my favorite,” noted Angie Todd of Ocracoke, “because they’re the most determined.” Todd came in twelfth with a time of 1:46:08.
Genaro Perez, also of Ocracoke, came in fourth overall with a time of one hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds.
“I hurt from my backside to the tips of my toes,” said David Scott Esham of Ocracoke after he came in eighth with a time of 1:42:17.
“It feels like my legs are going to break off,” noted another runner as she cooled down.
Tina Babcock of Tidewater, Va., sat on a picnic table near the finish line and ran a cowbell as the runners crossed the line.
“It’s a runner thing to ring cowbells,” she said “It breaks up the monotony of the pain.”
She and her family had run with a running group Saturday in the 5K.
“We love Ocracoke,” she said.
Dorie Fuller of Nags Head, who came in 20th with a time of 1:54:08, enjoyed the course.
“I had to do the inaugural half-marathon on Ocracoke,” she said.
Nancy Mann, 70, and Joan Foreman, 74, of Destin, Fla., came to Ocracoke specially to run the half-marathon, an activity the two have done since 1996.
Mann said the two have traveled to all 50 states doing half-marathons, and after they completed that goal, decided to do half marathons in as many state capitals as they can.
Now they are doing half-marathons on islands.
Mann came in 86th with a time of 2:31:17 and Foreman had run the 10K the day before. Greg Honeycutt, organizer of both race days, was happy that all three races went well with no major problems.
“All the runners thanked us for keeping them safe,” he said. “They loved the course.”
The races were a fundraiser for WOVV 90.1 FM radio, Ocracoke Community Park, Ocracoke School Booster Club and Ocracoke Child Care.
Honeycutt expects that between sponsorships, fees and raffles, the event will net $40,000 to divide among the four groups.
Joseph Ramunni, manager of Ocracoke’s Community Store, watched Sunday as the age-group winners received their awards.
“This is such a special event for Ocracoke for so many reasons,” he said. “Look at how happy these people are.”
To view all the race results, visit http://runtheeast.com, and click on “results.”