As the sun peeks over the horizon, a gunshot is fired and the Emerald Isle Marathon participants take off. The weather is cool and ocean waves rumble in the distance. It’s a perfect day for a run.
For the next several hours, 2,500 people will push their endurance to its limit. Some have trained for a personal best, while others simply came to find out what they’re made of. But as they navigate through the neighborhood roads in the small beach town of Emerald Isle, N.C., they all have a common goal — the finish line.
For race director Candace Dooley and other race committee members, the Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K once was just a dream. When the group mostly composed of avid runners first came together in 2013, they hoped to host a race that might attract a couple hundred runners and raise funds for the local community. Today, the race is a Boston Marathon qualifier that doubles as one of its town’s most important fundraisers.
Runners from across the country participate in the annual race by the beach. When the race board added sanction to certify the marathon in 2015, allowing participants to potentially qualify for the iconic Boston Marathon, it vaulted the event to new heights.
During the past four years, the Emerald Isle Marathon has raised more than $205,000 for local, health-related charities and helped fund the expansion of a bicycle and pedestrian path that now runs from one end of the town to the other.
Now, more than 300 volunteers show up on race day to wait in anticipation to help runners on their way — handing them water, holding signs or blaring music along the winding route to the finish line. Those volunteers are wonderful Carteret County residents wanting to give a helping hand to an event that gives back to their community.
“The race could not be made possible without the wonderful volunteers and help from the town,” Dooley says.
In conjunction with the company’s IMPACT1 initiative, launched earlier this year, many Transportation Impact employees show up on race day to lend a helping hand.
“Part of our commitment to our community is a pledge to provide one percent of our employees’ time to charitable efforts,” says company Co-Founder Travis Burt. “Our people have really taken to our culture of giving back to the community. That’s probably what we’re most proud of as owners — to see our employees grow to become great professionals and even better people.
“All we want to do as leaders is provide a path for them to do that, and the rest will fall into place.”
More than a dozen TI staffers participated or volunteered in this year’s event, which enjoyed the biggest turnout in its four-year history.
“The race committee is grateful to have TI as a sponsor,” Dooley says. “They not only help with monetary donations, but also are a huge help by having their employees volunteer on race day.”