Among other things, the Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon in Virginia Beach is known for its swag, including special beach towel runners get at the finish line. But Reynolds Wilson had some convincing to do when he asked for two.
Wilson took advantage of the races' odd starting times, the half begins 90 minutes before the full, to avoid congestion, to register for, and run, both.
"There are a lot of races out there, a lot of half marathons and marathons," said Wilson, 42, an attorney who works for the federal government. "I just thought it would be interesting to do something that was a little out there."
Wearing two bib numbers and timing chips, one on each leg, he started near the front of the pack in the half marathon at 7 a.m., finishing in 1:36:45, race officials confirm, and kept going.
"At that point, in the chute, everyone is walking, and they're like, 'Why are you still running?'" Reynolds said.
He jumped a plastic barrier, sprinted the 100 yards to where the marathon was starting, grabbed a hydration pack from a waiting running buddy, and shoved his half marathon medal in the pocket. Then he crossed the starting line again.
"People show up late all the time to races, so my hunch is they thought that's what he was doing," race director Jerry Frostick said.
Frostick says no one is known to have run both Shamrock races before, but Wilson's feat has organisers considering making it an official option.
"We thought, 'Gosh, that's great,'" Frostick said. "He's definitely gotten our minds going."
Multi-day combinations of half and full marathons, such as those at the Disney theme parks, are hugely popular, he said. As a runner, Frostick said, he doesn't necessarily get it. "I'm a marathoner and I don't even do a cool-down run after a marathon."
But as a race director, "I love it. It's more people coming out there and making it a lifestyle and being healthy, so good on them."
The Shamrock, which started in 1973, already has a Dolphin Challenge, which combines the half marathon with an 8K the day before, and a Whale Challenge, which combined the marathon with the 8K. There's already a proposed name under consideration for the half and full: The King Neptune Challenge.
"It just makes the party that much better," Frostick said. "Gives you bragging rights."
As for Wilson, he didn't stick around for the post-race party. He finished the marathon in 4:15:09—a far more leisurely time than his 2:59 PR (and a pace of 9:44, down from 7:23 in the half)—picked up his second medal, successfully retrieved both beach towels, and headed home to relieve the babysitter.
"Sometimes you need to make up a challenge," he said. "I have a desk job. I work as an attorney. You kind of want to have some source of motivation, something to train for when it's cold outside and you would just as soon be sitting on the sofa."
He didn't make a fuss at the finish, he said, because, "It's not about trying to get a bunch of fanfare. I just wanted to see if I could do it. And doing something no one in the race is doing makes it a little more challenging."
Then again, Wilson said, if the Shamrock does add a King Neptune Challenge next year, he'll be okay with the company. "I'd go back for that," he said.