Runners in the 2020 Ocracoke 5K, 10K and half-marathon are spotted along Back Road. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Connie Leinbach

Georgia Gray and her father, Kenneth, were happy to be outside in balmy November weather on Ocracoke and running a 10K race.

The Ocracoke Island “runfest” of a 5K, 10K and half-marathon, typically held the last weekend in April, was moved to the weekend of Nov. 14 and 15 in hopes that the novel coronavirus pandemic might have abated enough by then to hold it in person.

But that didn’t happen, and race officials turned it into a “virtual” race though with the option to run on your own on the island if you were here. There would be no official time keeping, no water along the route, no volunteers, no partying afterwards.

“They’re on their own,” said Race Director Angie Todd as she handed out swag bags to runners on Friday night outside 1718 Brewing Ocracoke.

Runners could start whenever they wanted starting on Saturday.

On the island, the start location for the 5K and 10K was just beyond Howard’s Pub. For the half-marathon, it was at the former Gaffer’s location and was where Todd, an elite runner herself, parked on both days encouraging and chatting with runners.

Katharina Bayer of Virginia Beach shows off this year’s medal and T-shirt. Photo: C. Leinbach

She said 300 people signed up to run and about 100 planned to run in person. In 2019, the event drew about 500 runners, an all-time high, for this fundraiser for Ocracoke’s community radio WOVV, the Ocracoke School Booster Club and the Ocracoke Youth Center, which operates the community ballfield.

This year, because it is “virtual,” all runners are tasked with keeping their own times and uploading them after they finish running, which can be up to Nov. 28. Virtual runners can run wherever they are located.

“There’s no winner,” Todd said.

But some of the runners said that being outside on the island was winning enough.

“I came out just to enjoy it,” said Yoshi Smith of Virginia Beach on Saturday, who has run the race several times.

Katharina Bayer, also of Virginia Beach and a friend of Smith, ran the 10K on Saturday and planned to run the half-marathon the next day.

“I got to see the whole island,” she said of her trek.

Georgia Gray and Kenneth, veteran runners, donned pirate costumes to run the 10K on Sunday.

“We both just said we’re not doing virtual,” Georgia said as she caught her breath. “The race was at least doable, and we wanted to get out of the house.”

Sandra and Anthony Whitehead of Greenville cruise into the finish line after running the half-marathon. Photo: C. Leinbach
Ocracoke Runfest Race Director Angie Todd, left, talks with runners Georgia Gray and Kenneth Gray. Photo: C. Leinbach

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