WILMINGTON, N.C. --
Freezing cold temperatures did not stop more than 2,000 people from traveling all over the nation to participate in the Carolina Sports Medicine’s 12th annual Battleship Half Marathon and Bay Six Battleship 5K race in Wilmington, N.C., Nov. 7.
Active-duty service members, retired military personnel, Department of Defense civilians, high school cross-country runners and cancer survivors were just some of the athletes who came out to run the 13.1-mile course.
“This race is dedicated to the men and women who serve in the armed forces, especially those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the men who served on the Battleship North Carolina,” said Ed Fore, the half-marathon race director.
The event started and ended at the Battleship USS North Carolina. Half-marathon walkers started the race at 7 a.m., while the half-marathon runners started at 8 a.m. Those participating in the five-kilometer race started a few minutes after 8 a.m. A moment of silence for service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice was observed before each race.
Fans, family members and race staff cheered for the runners as they ran their respective races, and Marines handed race medals to every half-marathon participant who crossed the finish line. Running shoes were awarded to overall male and female winners in the Open, Masters and Grand Masters categories of both races, and all participants received a free ticket to tour the Battleship USS North Carolina.
Competitors also received free massages and feasted on pizza, fruit and a variety of hot and cold beverages.
Shawn McKee won the Bay Six Battleship 5K race in 18 minutes and 9 seconds, while Aaron Kolk won the Battleship Half Marathon with a finishing time of 1:12:24.
McKee, who has been running since he was 12 years old, coaches runners at Ashley High School in Wilmington, N.C. Kolk, whose high school coach was a Marine, ran for the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Both said they enjoyed running in competitive races, especially those that recognize military contributions.
“We always try to come out and support any race involving the military,” said McKee. “It’s the least we can do.”
Sgt. Daniel Spaulding, a combat instructor with Company B, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East, said he enjoyed running in his very first half marathon, which he completed in 1:42:35. Spaulding, who plans to continue his training in order to run a full marathon, gets much of his inspiration from his brothers-in-arms.
“I ran to honor all of the Marines of (2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division) who died in Afghanistan,” said Spaulding, who wore a T-shirt commemorating his late friend, Cpl. Nicholas G. Xiarhos, who died in 2009 while serving in combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Jason Koplin, a firefighter who lives in Wilmington, N.C., served with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, a few years ago. The former active-duty Marine said the race was a good opportunity to give back to the Marine Corps and pay tribute to the veterans.
The next race in the Grand Prix Series is the Great Mullet Run, scheduled for Nov. 13, in Swansboro, N.C.
For more information about the Grand Prix Series events, call (910) 451-5430 or 451-0092.