For many runners, November marks the end of the fall marathon season. But if you hang up your racing shoes for the year, you’ll miss a gem of a race: the Rehoboth Marathon and Half Marathon.
Held the second Saturday in December, these races are organized by the Rehoboth Beach Running Company, a local store, and attract a total of about 1,500 runners.
Race weekend begins on Friday with packet pick-up at the store, followed by a pasta dinner in a heated tent set up in the parking lot. After dinner, take a stroll: if you think that a beach community would be a ghost town in the winter, you’ll be surprised to find that most stores are open, and there are plenty of people walking about — many of whom aren’t even in town for the race.
Cool temperatures and occassionally wind greet runners on race morning as they gather by the bandstand standing at the foot of Rehoboth Avenue, adjacent to the beach and the boardwalk, for the pre-race instructions and singing of the national anthem.
Once the race begins, runners stream up the avenue and soon find themselves on a tree-lined hard-pack dirt trail. The course winds its way north to the community of Lewes, Delaware, followed by the highlight of the race – a tour of Henlopen State Park, a pristine stretch of historic and protected seashore
Upon entering the park, runners will feel transported back to WWII as they pass large concrete observation towers, built to provide early warning of any nearby German submarine activity. Further on are large coastal cannons, and then runners crest a dune for a grand view of the Atlantic. It’s a sight worth the hours of running it takes to arrive there.
After exiting the park, runners retrace their steps back through Lewes and onto the trail as they head back to Rehoboth. The finish line rewards them not only with a great medal, but with a post-race celebraiton featuring tons of food, beer, and other drinks and goodies inside the heated tent.
For those runenrs who opt to stay for the weekend, there are outlet stores to explore and a board to stroll. Meanwhile, others can still make it home without upsetting Sunday family plans.
All in all, the Rehoboth Beach Marathon and Half Marathon achieves a rare racing goal: providing all the charm and friendliness of a small town race, with the scenery and race support of a much bigger event.
Definitely worth circling on the race calendar.