Any professional knows that the best way to retire is with one final performance of a lifetime. Hometown hero Bobby Mack did just that at Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon presented by WRAL. The 31-year-old Mack, who lives and works in North Carolina’s capital city, broke the finish-line tape for the 13.1 miles in a blazing one hour, eight minutes and two seconds—a full 35 seconds ahead of rival Christian Thompson who finished second in 1:08:37. Sunday’s victory was a repeat of his first-place showing at the race last year. The bronze in the men’s division went to Tibor Vegh (1:10:23).
“It feels good,” admitted a smiling Mack afterward. “I’m retiring from the elite side of the sport. I did it in my hometown and it makes things even more special for me.”
Mack said that he adjusted his pacing in the race to account for the hills in the final miles and ensure that he could have enough reserves left to surge to the win if need be. “I faded out in the final miles last year and made sure today that it wouldn’t happen again.”
The women’s half marathon was not as close as the men’s. Thirty-two-year-old Molly Nunn of nearby Winston Salem won in 1:21:17 and it was a full 90 seconds before her nearest rival, Kristina Vegh (1:22:47) came through for second. Nicole Esplin was third in 1:23:31.
“The race was fantastic. It was amazing,” said Nunn. “I was coming off a knee injury so this was a big if for me. My time was really good since I didn’t know what to expect. The course was great. I had run the City of Oaks race last here so I knew what to expect with the hills. This was a last-minute decision. I had emailed the elite director to see if she could let me in and she did, so I will definitely be running here next year and plan to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas later this year. I can’t wait.”
A full marathon was held in conjunction with Sunday’s half. Sean Zion of Cameron, North Carolina won the men’s race in 2:42:47. Brian Fowler (2:44:18) and Thomas George (2:47:26) placed second and third respectively.
“It was good,” said Zion. “I was feeling the hills at the end and actually had to stop a bit at mile 22. Good stuff.” Zion had hoped to run faster than his 2:42 showing, but was pleased nonetheless. “I’m happy with it,” he said.
Twenty-year-old Emma Astrike-Davis of Durham (3:00:43) prevailed in the women’s marathon by an 11-minute margin. Brittany Van Nielsen came in next in 3:11:00, while Amanda Knapp was third in 3:14:54.
“The weather was awesome,” champion Astrike-Davis said afterwards. “It was sunny and the fans were amazing.”
Astrike-Davis runs on the cross-country team at the University of North Carolina and divulged that she hadn’t run more than 13 miles in training recently. Several of her teammates came out to cheer her on at the end as well as her cousin and her cousin’s 3-year-old. “My cousin showed up at three different spots. They almost ran as much as I did and I want to tell them that I love them a lot.”
Conditions for Sunday’s race, 40 degrees and sunny, were chilly yet optimal for both the half and full marathoners. Temperatures had warmed up by the time the headliner band, St. Lucia, mounted the stage to belt out tunes for celebrating participants and their families.