Raleigh, N.C. — The top medals from the 2016 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in Raleigh will stay close to home. North Carolina runners crossed the finish line first in the men's and women's races at both distances Sunday morning.
The race series, which included a 5K run on Saturday, is sponsored in Raleigh by WRAL.
Cameron's Sean Zion, the first male finisher in the marathon, said the cold weather was not a factor in his race.
"I was shooting for a little better, but those hills are tough at the end," Zion said. "I was feeling the hills at the end and actually had to stop a bit at mile 22."
"I was definitely feeling it," he said. "I stopped at the 22-mile mark with a little cramp but powered through and got it."
Emma Astrike-Davis, of Durham, claimed the women's marathon title. A member of the cross-country team at the University of North Carolina, Astrike-Davis said she hadn't run more than 13 miles during her training.
For the second year in a row, Bobby Mack, 31, who ran and now coaches track at North Carolina State University, won the men's half marathon. He finished in 1:08:02.
Mack said before the race that it would be his last as a competing professional.
"I really wanted to have a final race in my home town," he said. "It's extra special to get the win again."
Molly Nunn, 32, of Winston Salem, won the women's half with a time of 1:21:17.
"It's a very big victory," she said, noting that she was coming off an injury and had not been able to train with long runs.
The top three finishers of both half marathons were all from North Carolina. Christian Thompson of Winston Salem (1:08:37) trailed Mack by 35 seconds, and Tibor Vegh of Raleigh was third (1:10:23). Kristina Vegh came in second among women (1:22:47), and Nicole Esplin (1:23:31) finished third.
The unseasonable chill did little to dampen runners and spectators' high spirits.
"Runners actually like it colder," said Rock 'n' Roll series founder Tracy Sundlun, "Maybe not quite this cold, but it keeps their engines cooler. It will be safer out there."
Two years ago, during the inaugural Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, temperatures were much warmer and two runners died.
This year, they bundled up to get to the start time for the 7 a.m. gun. By races' end, it was only about 50 degrees in downtown Raleigh.
Many major roads were closed to vehicle traffic beginning at 6 a.m. as an estimated 10,000 runners and their supporters swarmed areas in and around downtown Raleigh for the races.
As runners passed, law enforcement officers and race officials gradually re-opened roads to cars.
The celebration continued well into the afternoon in downtown Raleigh, where the race series sponsored a series of free concerts and an awards ceremony.