Builders and Shapers: Outer Banks Sporting Events

Builders and Shapers: Outer Banks Sporting Events

April 18th, 2023

What started as a way to create a signature shoulder-season event, which became one of the signature events on the Mid-Atlantic sports calendar, has evolved into a year-round effort that has brought tangible and unseen benefits to the entire Greater Outer Banks community.

[photo courtesy Kip Tabb/OBSE]
After kicking off their 2023 season in March with the Running of the Leprechauns 5K and 10K, Outer Banks Sporting Events hosts the Flying Pirate Half Marathon this weekend.

Events start Friday with the Expo and packet pick-up at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Nags Head. Then on Saturday morning, it’s the First Flight 5K and Fun Run at Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

And Sunday is the Half Marathon, starting at 7 a.m. at First Flight Middle School in Kill Devil Hills and finishing at Wright Brothers National Memorial, with a Pirate Jamboree, awards party and food and beer.

OBSE Executive Director Debbie Luke, who is running wide-open getting everything ready for this weekend, slowed down to a walking pace for a few seconds to take part in our Builders and Shapers series.

How did OBSE get started, who do you serve and how?
Outer Banks Sporting Events is a non-profit organization started in 2005 by Mike Kelly and several of his friends with the sole idea to provide the community with a new event, the Outer Banks Marathon, that would bring the county together, be healthy, be a partnership for non-profits and local businesses, and bring visitors to the Outer Banks in November – at that time still considered a true shoulder season.

Over the years the OBSE mission has been tweaked and updated to fit the growing needs of the community and to evolve from what was, at the time, one of the few marathons held in eastern North Carolina, to a year-round series of sporting events.

That includes two half marathons, several 5K and 8K races, fun runs, water events, a triathlon and partnerships with organizations such as the OBX YMCA, Friends of Jockey’s Ridge, Outer Banks Health and others.

Almost 20 years later, OBSE still organizes sporting events and competitions, still promotes healthy living lifestyles and provides financial resources for needed relief and education, all while contributing to the economic health of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While Covid-19 forced events to go virtual in 2020, and 2021 was a bit of a mixed weather and Covid wash out, 2022 started a re-growth for the organization.

As an organization, they are able to bring together several non-profit organizations to help promote a healthy Outer Banks lifestyle for all who live here.

It is and continues to be a work in progress with new events coming up all the time.

The OBSE Board of Directors for 2023 are Hugh Rawlins, Kip Tabb, KC McAvoy, Martin Dolan, Nick Graham, Brian Kimsey, John Sapienza, Andrian “Sweet Pea” Tillett, Meredith Foreman, Glen Thompson and Charlie Davidson.

What are some of the benefits of your organization’s work?
We support a lot of smaller, local organizations and school programs that help OBSE supplying OBSE with groups of volunteers. We make a donation to each organization or non-profit who provides help for our events. It creates a win-win.

Many high school groups have students who need to volunteer at community events to graduate. They man stations at our events and we
help with a donation to their school or non-profit organization.

Do you think issues you address will ever go away? Why or why not?
Healthy living is always a community need. We have so many people on the Outer Banks who have to work two or three jobs just to get by. We understand that. We work with lots of county resources to make sure families and children get outside and walk, run, jog, just get active.

And we bring revenue to Dare County in the shoulder seasons, particularly in April and November – which help lift the overall economy.

In November, 2022 at the OBX Marathon and Half Marathon, we had people run from 48 of our 50 states. Plus, people from Canada, Mexico and 6 other countries.

They all bring someone with them to run: wives; husband; kids; families; friends. They all want to be part of this, and they spend a lot of money in the region.

What else would you like our readers to know, perhaps an interesting insight or heartwarming story?
There’s a great story about an 85-year-old doctor from Greensboro who had run several marathons in his lifetime, who came to not just run the Outer Banks Marathon, but to finish as well.

It was a rough start that morning for everyone due to bad weather, but all was going well for the doctor. 

But around mile 10 he took a fall, banging up his knees. He got right back up and continued.

Then around mile 20 he took a bad fall and caused a thrombus to his face and eye. EMTs were called, but before they got there he popped back up again continued to run.

Coming around the Wright Brothers National Memorial he took another fall. A nice EMT tried to get him to stop and get help. He refused and came on into the finish. Blood everywhere, out of breath and looking like a monster.

He smiled and said, “I finished!”

This man conquered age, weather and accidents. None of that was going to disrupt his success. He said later that Dare County was one of the great places to come run and see all the beauty.

What’s new? What are your upcoming events or initiatives?
We have a lot going on. In July, we have two NEW events. Killer Dunes with Friends of Jockey’s Ridge is a race we’re handling that occurs on July 4 at 8:30 for a 2-mile run.

On July 29, we are partnering with OBX YMCA to have a Splash and Dash exclusively for kids 15 and under which will incorporate both a 100- and 200-meter swimming challenge in the pool and a run up the hill behind the YMCA in Nags Head

Race details are still being worked out, and it should be a fun event for locals and vacationing families.

Finally in October, OBSE is having an off-road biking event on the Dare County mainland near Buffalo City. It’s not a race. Just a bike challenge. But should bring in a lot of different athletes.

We are very excited to be branching out into new sporting event avenues. And we’d love to do more.

For more information on Outer Banks Sporting Events:

In conjunction with the Outer Banks Community Foundation and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, WOBX has launched “Builders and Shapers: Nonprofits for a Greater Outer Banks” a weekly series featuring the nonprofits that serve our area. They share details about how they are working to make northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks a better place to live, work and play.

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