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Elizabeth City: Home of The Coast Guard Marathon

Posted on 02/05/2021 by Breanna Brower

Couple wearing Coast guard half marathon and 5K t-shirts and inaugural medal

If you've ever lived in or been to Elizabeth City, you've probably had a casual conversation with a Coastie at a local restaurant, heard the rumble of Coast Guard helicopters overheard, or maybe even been on base. The Coast Guard holds a long-standing place in the hearts of Elizabeth City residents and we're proud to be a designated Coast Guard City since 2015. Choosing Elizabeth City as the home of the inaugural Coast Guard Run was easy! Just keep reading for a quick history and race details at the end.

Man running near waterfront in elizabeth city nc

In Elizabeth City alone, the Coast Guard employs over 2,000 personnel and supports 500 dependents and 700 military retirees! The Coastie community and Elizabeth City residents have a supportive relationship. From the annual Coast Guard Week offering discounts to Coast Guard men and women in local shops to volunteer programs like Partners in Education, the mutual love and support is apparent. "Since reporting to Base Elizabeth City in 2019, my family has felt the overwhelming support that makes our Harbor of Hospitality so inviting," says Commander Melissa Arles, executive officer of Base Elizabeth City. "The opportunity to help organize this inaugural running event with Base Elizabeth City, Visit Elizabeth City and other local organizations is a great example of our community's commitment to curate ongoing collaboration and positive growth."

Project Zebra pilots and planeElizabeth City's history with the Coast Guard dates back to August 15,1940 with the establishment of Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina. In its early years, Base Elizabeth City served as a training base for both Army and Navy personnel in addition to the Coast Guard. In 1944, top-secret mission Project Zebra brought Russian airmen to Base Elizabeth Ctiy for training in the American-built PBN-1 seaplane. More than 200 PBN-1s took flight with Russian aircrews from Elizabeth City to the Soviet Union.

Since the Air Station was established, Coasties have averaged over 360 search and rescue missions each year. Base Elizabeth City is home to the Aviation Logistics Center, Aviation Technical Training Center, Small Boat Station Elizabeth City, Air Station Elizabeth City, C27J APO, and National Strike Force. With one of the largest U.S. Coast Guard Air Stations, Base Elizabeth City continues to play a vital role in Coast Guard Aviation and training for Coasties all over the country. You can learn more about the history of Elizabeth City at our free regional museum, Museum of the Albemarle.

Donnie Markham training for coast guard half marathon at mariners' wharf park, Elizabeth City, NCComing soon to Elizabeth City's Coast Guard contributions are the first-ever races of the U.S. Coast Guard - The Coast Guard Half Marathon and Guardians of the Atlantic 5K! Visit Elizabeth City is excited to celebrate our Coastie community and host this inaugural half marathon and 5K to Coast Guard members, family, and supporters across the country. "About 5 years ago I was searching online for races to register for and saw all the other branches of service had events of some kind.  As a veteran, runner, and small business owner, I thought organizing an official race for the Coast Guard locally would be awesome for the community and possibly a legacy event for years to come." said Donnie Markham, a local runner who originated the idea of a Coast Guard sanctioned event in Elizabeth City. "I am excited to be part of the great team that Visit Elizabeth City has put together to make it happen."

After careful consideration of health and safety restrictions, Visit Elizabeth City has made the decision to host this inaugural event virtually. While we're sad to not be able to welcome runners from far and wide to our quaint, coastal town in 2021, a virtual event holds an equally exciting opportunity and even more flexibility than an in-person race!

Coast Guard men and women running at U.S. Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, North Carolina

"When Coasties say 'Always Ready' we mean it!" says CWO Paul Spencer. "We've been anxiously awaiting race day since talks of the event started in fall 2019 and can't wait to see Coast Guard members and supporters from all over the country join us in the inaugural event. It’s an honor to be part of the team making this run happen."

Participants can complete their race by walking or running anywhere—even their treadmill—any time between the official race day of March 6, 2021 and March 31, 2021. Choose your swag items including a t-shirt and finishers medal, create a team or run on your own, and run your own race at your own pace with this inaugural event.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating virtually in 2021 and in-person in 2022! 


Coast guard half marathon logo

For more information and to register for The Coast Guard Half Marathon and Guardians of the Atlantic 5K, check out


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