By Connie Leinbach
It may not have been the largest group in the Runfest Weekend’s several years in existence, but the 10th annual 5K/10K and half-marathon runners were happy to be back on Ocracoke Nov. 13 and 14.
The races were cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were moved to the November date this year also because of the pandemic.
Next year, the races will go back to the spring, on April 22 & 23, said Race Director Angie Todd as she cheered on the finishers and handed them participation medals. Find details at http://www.runocracoke.com.
“I’m super happy with the turnout,” said Garick Kalna, owner of 1718 Brewing Ocracoke where all three races began and ended. This will be the spot for next spring’s race and the upcoming 5K Turkey Trot at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Proceeds from the weekend’s races will benefit Ocracoke’s community radio station, WOVV 90.1 FM, the Ocracoke School Boosters and the Ocracoke Community Ballfield.
Among the beers the runners sipped following their exertion was one Kalna brewed especially for the weekend – Puddle Jumper – which was particularly apt because of all the puddles around the island from a rainstorm the day before.
“I just went through them,” islander Mau Guerrero, 12, said about the puddles, “but it was my worst time.” Mau came in 23rd at 27:03.
Mau is a son of 5K winner Chito Guerrero, 41, both of Ocracoke, who has won the 5K almost every year since the race started 10 years ago.
Chito’s time this year of 18:45 was a bit slow, he said. His time as the overall 5K winner in 2018 was 18:33. In 2019, he came in second with a time of 18:09.
Following close behind Guerrero this year were Dennis Dominguez Vasquez, 28, whose time was 19:33, and Gerardo Dominguez, 31, at 19:40, both of Ocracoke.
Abby Berquist, 39, of Kitty Hawk, was fourth at 20:56, and also was the women’s overall winner.
Sherry and Tim Rothrock of Winston-Salem and their two-year-old dog, Bosco, were running for their fifth year.
“It’s always a yearly getaway,” Sherry said after doing the 5K on Saturday.
Amy Johnson, 37, of Clayton, won the 10K with a time of 40:57. Second place was Ted Richardson, 51, of Chapel Hill at 41:27, and the third-place winner was Millard Thomas, 53, of Nags Head.
Johnson and her husband, Mathue, arrived on the island for the first time along with their baby.
“We came to run both the 10K and the half marathon, my husband ran pushing the baby stroller,” she said.
“We run lots of races, including marathons and ultramarathons, — 50-mile and 100-mile events. So, this is a nice short run,” said Matthue about the half marathon on Sunday. “Yesterday was my first time running with the baby stroller.”
Amy also was the top woman scorer the next day in the half-marathon with a time of 1:30:52. She came in seventh overall in that race, which was not good enough to beat Connor Readman, 20, of Southern Shores.
Readman blew past all 74 half-marathoners with a 1 hour, 18 minutes and 35 seconds 1:18:35 score.
“There’s a new kid in town,” Todd noted about Readman’s fast time as she gave the awards out after the race. “He blew us all away.”
Chito Guerrero was hoping to add another half-marathon win but at a time of 1:29:05, he couldn’t best Readman.
Guerrero trailed behind Brent Ziegler, 46, of Greensboro, who came in second at 1:26:06, and Mike Slaughter, 42, of Kill Devil Hills, who came in third at 1:27:46.
Guerrero’s compadres, Vasquez and Dominguez, in the 5K also joined him in the half-marathon, with Vasquez coming in sixth at 1:30:40 and Dominguez coming in eighth at 1:30:51.
Readman, in an interview, said he had only recently decided to run the Ocracoke race since the OBX half marathon got cancelled.
“It was my first half-marathon,” he said, explaining that it’s his first year doing endurance sports, such as triathlons.
Tiffany Batiste, 40, of Kenly, Johnston County, participated in her first race of any kind doing the half marathon with her husband, Daniel Batiste and sister Ashley Viverette, and she walked the 13 miles.
“I feel fine,” she said afterwards, noting that she walks a lot for exercise. “Right before the last turn my legs were hurting.”
Katrina Robeck, 69, of Garner, enjoyed the flat Ocracoke course after having run the City of Oaks half-marathon recently in Raleigh.
“I don’t like to do (races) under 10 miles,” she said, noting that her time of 2:39 was good for her. “(Half-marathons) are more of a challenge but I plan to do one marathon when I’m 70.”
Viverette echoed other runners when she said she runs for the mental health.
“You clear your mind and just think about running,” she said. “It’s a great weekend.”
Although this year’s Run Fest Weekend drew about 300 runners, which was 150 to 200 fewer than in past years, Todd was happy.
“Runners are my favorite people,” she said.
Peter Vankevich contributed to this story.