“It’s quite an event,” said Jim Lane, owner of Ellerbe Springs Inn and Restaurant. “We bring in people from all over the world. We’ve had runners come from as far as Japan and England.”
All 16 rooms at Ellerbe Springs have booked. Lane said they start getting calls as early as October.
“The place is hummin’ for the whole weekend.”
Runners will leave their marks at 8 a.m., rain or shine. The many hills of Rankin Lake, Saron Church Road and Cartledge Creek — including Pea Ridge — await them before they finally head back through downtown Ellerbe and to the finish line.
John Hutchinson of Rockingham, an ESM veteran who will be volunteering at the race this year, said the course is well-known in the running community and draws great reviews on specialty websites like MarathonGuide.com.
The marathon is sponsored by the Mangum Track Club - a local runner’s club that issues a lifetime membership card in the form of a MTC T-shirt to any applicant that completes their 15-mile initiation.
“It has an excellent reputation for being both runner-friendly and a tough marathon,” said Hutchinson. “Plus it’s a great social event. You finish and sit down with a lot of other people and tell war stories in a friendly atmosphere.”
He said past long-time race director Doug Dawkins and his successor this year, Fred Dummar, create a supportive atmosphere.
“Those guys understand what runners like to see when they’re out on the course,” said Hutchinson. “And the awards ceremony is very nicely done.”
Multiple awards are given in different age group, gender and overall categories. These have traditionally been “face jugs” by Terry and Vivian Hunt of Cross Creek Pottery in Seagrove.
According to Mark Long of Ellerbe, assistant race director, the average ESM runner is 45 years old, but the oldest person to ever complete the course was an 82-year old woman. The youngest was nine. The age limit was changed to 18 for health concerns, so this year’s range, so far, goes from 18 to early 70s.
Lane said those who want to walk the course can start at 6 a.m. Runners start getting to the finish line after 11 a.m. Though the race is an official Boston Marathon qualifier, people of all abilities can race to make their personal best time.
“What really surprises me is that sometimes the last people, you see them coming in at four or five in the afternoon — they just haven’t quit.
“You get to see what these runners are up against with the hills. These folks that run these marathons don’t care (about rain). They’re totally dedicated.”
Participants can register and go to an All-You-Can-Eat Pasta Dinner for $9.99 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday night. Saturday packet pick-up and registration will go from 7 a.m.to 7:30 a.m. A pre-race briefing will be at the starting line at 7:50 a.m., with a prompt start at 8 a.m. A complimentary lunch of chicken and dumplings, peach cobbler and homemade bread will be available for runners by 11 a.m. The awards ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m.
For more information, contact race director Fred Dummar at 764-1685.