Delaware’s biggest road-race weekend is about to get even bigger.
After seeing nearly 2,400 racers turn out last spring, Coastal Delaware Running Festival race director Rick Hundley and the team at Focus Multisports are expecting upwards of 4,000 participants to show up when the starting gun goes off in Dewey Beach for the run’s return this April.
Recently named “Delaware’s #1 Marathon” by TripAdvisor, the First State’s only Boston Marathon-qualifier event will also be adding a 5K to the lineup and will again feature a marathon, half-marathon and 9K, all showcased along its scenic flat courses spanning from Dewey Beach up to Lewes.
With that kind of clout, the race has drawn competitors from across the country and the globe, last year seeing 44 states and multiple countries represented.
“The course is spectacular, with lots of variety in the views and terrain — definitely not your typical beach marathon,” said Katherine Zampolin of Richmond, Va. “It was extremely organized and well-staffed, and the volunteers were incredibly enthusiastic. Even the policeman working on the course seemed to enjoy the race.”
“My husband and I participated in the 9K, and we had an absolute blast from start to finish,” said Stephanie Conaghan of Washington, D.C. “The course was absolutely beautiful, the atmosphere was amazing and the after-party was so fun.”
The event will again benefit the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation (DSPF), after previously raising nearly $30,000 to assist in the foundation’s efforts, which include maintaining the Indian River Life Saving Station, Holts Landing and Delaware Seashore state parks, and the Indian River Marina.
Currently, the foundation is in the process of restoring the historic towers along the Delaware beaches.
“One of our major undertakings is the restoration of World War II fire-control towers in North Bethany, Fenwick Island, and the full restoration of Fire Control Tower No. 3 in Dewey Beach, which will be open to the general public,” said DSPF Chairman Ernie Felici. “In addition to the dollars donated over the past two years, Focus Multisports has brought nationwide attention to this effort though promotions in various traditional ways and social media.”
This year, the CoDel festival will also be further establishing itself as an “inclusion event,” working with programs including Autism Speaks, Autism Delaware, Preston’s March for Energy and Athletes Serving Athletes.
“We’ve always been an inclusion-friendly organization,” said Hundley of Focus Multisports, which also puts on events including the Surfin’ Snowman 5K, Bethany Beach First Responders Triathlon and Justin’s Beach House 5K, among others.
Other race events over the weekend will include a variety of “Challenge Runs,” including the “Tower Challenge,” “Fort Miles Challenge” and “Cape Challenge,” all set to take place on Saturday, April 22, along with the 5K, before the 9K and marathons get under way on Sunday, April 23.
Things will kick off with a packet pickup and welcoming party on Friday, April 21, held at Lighthouse Cove in Dewey Beach, which will also be the site of the Finish Line Beach Party finale, set for Sunday, April 22.
That’s where racers can catch their collective breath and hit the buffet, with complimentary adult beverages, music, awards presentations and, as always, plenty of “race swag.”
“The post-race party is by far the best race ending I have experienced,” said Trisha Pascale of Washington, D.C. “It is such a fun opportunity for runners to celebrate their accomplishment, enjoy the sunshine and meet other runners.”
“The after-party was awesome,” said Jeremy Offsey of Hoboken, N.J. “Great food, drinks and hanging out on the beach — what can be better than that?”
Of course, to continue the festival’s success, and with the run continuing to grow, more volunteers will be needed to help put on the show come race weekend.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” said Hundley. “As the race gets bigger, we’re definitely going to need more people helping out.”
While local organizations, including the Selbyville Middle School track-and-field team, are already signed up to pitch in, other groups or individuals interested in lending a hand are being encouraged to contact volunteer coordinator Jackie Felici through the race website at www.codelrun.com.
Registration for all events is currently open online at www.codelrun.com as well, with a full schedule and virtual tour of the course available. More information on the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation can be found at www.dspf.net and www.restorethetower.com, and general information on Focus Multisports at www.focusmultisports.com.
The Coastal Delaware Running Festival will take place on Friday, April 21; Saturday, April 22; and Sunday, April 23. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.