WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - There were signs in Downtown Wilmington on Saturday for marathon runners, and signs that Southeastern North Carolina continues to open back up.
“Last year at this time we were all sitting all by ourselves in our houses,” said Tom Clifford, the Wilmington Marathon race director. “This year we’re out. Things do look a little different with the masks and things like that, but it’s really actually gives you the chills when you watch it and see people really having a good time again.”
The 11th Annual Wilmington Marathon started early Saturday morning as 1,500 runners hit the streets of the Port City in waves starting at 6 a.m.
Some supporters didn’t have quite as early a wake up call.
“We got here at about 9:30,” Avery Walker said, who was there supporting her sister. “We were waiting for her to make the run down here. We were all cheering her on. I started a little bit further up so I could catch her.”
There were both first-time marathon runners and those who have been around the block a few times. Jeremy and Jason Allen are brothers who decided to run in this year’s marathon together.
“Older brother definitely won, he definitely won,” said Jeremy Allen, a first-time marathon runner.
His older brother, however, has run in the Wilmington Marathon before.
“To be able to run it with my brother was just awesome to be able to share something that I’ve enjoyed doing this race in the past,” Jason Allen said.
Runners passed the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar on North Front Street on their way into the finish and some stopped by for a well-deserved meal.
“We open up at 11 o’clock and I think by like 10:15 we had people asking if they could sit at tables,” said RJ Sargent, General Manager of the Downtown Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar. “We were excited so even if we weren’t open we were having people come in.”
It’s events like the Wilmington Marathon that give businesses hope the future is looking up.
“I think for us really this was the first step in us kind of seeing some sort of normalcy coming back and just being able to see all these people down here,” Sargent said.
The past year was tough for local businesses, similar to runner Abbey Dalton’s mile 11.
“I did fall at mile 11 and that was a dark spot for me,” Dalton said. “I was ready to give up.”
But the Cape Fear Region, like Dalton, will pick itself back up and continue onward.
“I finished, a tearful finish,” Dalton said. “I had go the distance from Hercules in my ears and just I was overwhelmed with emotion.”