Flat trails, agreeable temperatures, scenic water views—the Outer Banks is truly a runner’s paradise.- Cathy Baldwin
It’s also a runner’s vacation destination.
Matt Costa of Outer Banks Runcations has built a business on running tourism. In its third year, Outer Banks Runcations—the brainchild of Karen Warlitner and Matt Costa—is growing into a real phenomenon. The group has 22 races lined up for the year, including the Outer Banks Duathlon (a run-bike-run event), the Outer Banks Aquathon (a run-swim-run event), the Lighthouse 5K Series, the Village of Nags Head 5K Series and more.
“The races are geared for the family as well as the runner,” says Matt. “They’re not just for the aggressive 5k runner. It’s an organized, family-friendly event on vacation.”
Matt, the race director, and Karen, the creative director, have years of racing under their belts. Matt founded Outer Banks Bootcamps in 2009 and has run over 100 races. He is currently training for a June 2014 Iron Man. Karen, former president of the Outer Banks Running Club, is also an accomplished marathoner and is well known in the Outer Banks running scene.
Their combined experience gives them an edge on planning the perfect race. Outer Banks themed t-shirts, medals, professional timing services, clearly marked courses, professional photography services, catered after-parties and personalized thank-you letters post-race—Matt and Karen know what runners want in a race. They also try to keep as much of their business local as they can.
“There’s a tremendous amount of planning and logistics,” says Matt, a former Marine and Outer Banks Bootcamp leader. “It takes a lot of cooperation with the towns, prior proper planning, and assuring all ordinances have been met.”
Runcations has partnered with several major sponsors, including Brindley Beach, Village Realty, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Sun Realty, Cas N Cals and Outer Banks Tri Sports. In doing so, Matt says that Runcations has been able to donate over $30,000 to charities, including Interfaith Community Outreach, Ruthie’s Kitchen, Room at the Inn, First Flight Athletic Booster Club, Operation Wounded Warrior and several children’s endeavors.
It’s a year-round job putting the races together, getting sponsorships and making sure all 22 events happen without incident. “As soon as the event is over, next year’s planning begins,” says Matt.
And—three years in—Runcations is getting plenty of repeat business. “There’s a huge pre-registration, and we’re still months away,” says Matt. He notes that many of the runners are now planning their vacations around the races, rather than simply attending while they’re in town. He projects that Runcations will have about 4000 participants this year, and bigger events will likely have around 400 participants.
“It’s everything you’d find in a big city race,” says Matt, “brought to you here and repeated three times a week.”