Located off the northeast coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks (or OBX) features a scenic expanse of coastal beauty and has become a haven for runners and host to numerous annual racing events. The 120 miles of barrier islands provides a variety of diverse running terrain ranging from sand and dirt paths to pavement with long stretches of flat land interspersed with rolling hills. Simply spoken, there is something for Outer Banks runners of all skill sets, so the most difficult part of running the Outer Banks is deciding where to run.
Running the Beaches
The sand will always be the star of the show on the Outer Banks, and this is no different for running. The long stretch of shoreline creates a natural trail from which any runner can carve his or her own tracks. Beach runs can be enjoyed solo or runners can join in group runs. Since the beaches tend to form a pathway, no formal trails are specified for beach runners. In some areas, such as Cape Hatteras, trails do exist and may deviate from the shoreline, weaving into the coastal forests and then returning to the beach. This allows runners to enjoy the diverse landscape of the Outer Banks.
It’s difficult to narrow down the list of possible beach runs. For a run that is both scenic and historical, consider Cape Hatteras National Seashore, recently named by National Geographic as one of the “10 Best Trail Runs in America.” This run will take you past the infamous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which stands at 198 feet making it the tallest lighthouse in the nation.
Running the Multi-Use Paths
Each town on the Outer Banks offers multi-use paths. Currently there are over 50 miles of interconnected multi-use paths in Dare County alone. The paths in Duck, NC are some of the most popular for runners because they are easily accessible, the adjacent traffic is slow and they wind through the charming village center. Further north, the Corolla area offers a variety of multi-use paths, and the town has plans to expand the paths each year until they all connect. To the south, the town of Southern Shores has a wide multi-use path that runs the entire length of the main road, NC12.
Running in Maritime Forests
Beyond the beaches, the Outer Banks is also home to distinctive maritime forests. To explore this option, visit Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, a 1,000+ acre maritime forest preserve. On these dirt paths, runners can connect with nature just miles from the beach. Duck Town Park, located in the heart of Duck, features shorter trails that meander through 11 acres of maritime forest. Another popular running spot is the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve located in the town of Kitty Hawk.
Running the Dunes
Up for a challenge? Jockey’s Ridge State Park near Nags Head is home to some of tallest natural sand dunes found on the East Coast. Those who run these rolling hills of sand will find the experience both fulfilling and challenging. For a slightly less daunting dune run, visit the dunes of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll share the trails with a variety of wildlife. The terrain and landscape here is more diverse and includes beach, dunes and forest.
If your passion is racing, the Outer Banks is host to a variety of exciting race events. Detailed information can be found by visiting www.outerbanks.org or www.outerbankssportingevents.com.