Letter from dad inspires local runner to first-place finish at Wrightsville Beach Marathon

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WILMINGTON – The motivation one may use to fuel themselves in an athletic competition varies from person to person. For Wilmington resident Erin Hogston, a letter penned by her late father while he was stationed overseas – found just days before this weekend’s race – helped provide reassurance that dad was watching.

Erin Hogston recently found a letter penned by her late father while he was stationed in Iraq. Photo courtesy- Erin Hogston.
Erin Hogston recently found a letter penned by her late father while he was stationed in Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Erin Hogston)

Racing conditions were about as perfect as can be on Saturday as some 4,000 participants took part in the eighth annual Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon. With temperatures in the 60s at start time, runners took their mark at Wrightsville Beach Park and set sights on the finish line at UNC-Wilmington.

Hogston, 36, took first among women competitors and ninth overall at just under three hours (02:58:09). The veteran marathoner and her family have been dealing with the hardship of losing her dad this year but, as race day inched closer, Hogston had a chance run in with a Christmas card from 2005.

“Last week my father-in-law found the letter while they were moving out of our old house,” Hogston said. “He said it fell out of an empty box in the garage … onto his feet. I was very emotional when I read it and still get very emotional just thinking about it because I know that was him talking to me and telling me he was going to be watching.”

With feelings running high as she talked about not having her dad around for the upcoming race, the explanation for how things lined up over the next few days can only make one think, everything happens for a reason.

“I was just telling my friend during a run before the marathon how weird it was going to be without seeing dad at my race,” Hogston said. “He loved watching me run all throughout high school and college, and even after college.

“My entire family was emotional because of the whole timing of it and because he was never really one to send cards. He was in Iraq that year and that was the last time I saw that card. I didn’t even remember keeping it,” she said.

Three more Wilmington participants were in the Top-20 overall, including Karen Eckberg (03:01:38), Aaron Kolk (03:05:16) and Travis Lukasik (03:05:42).

A total of 629 runners finished the 26.2 mile race, while 1,828 competed in the 13.1 mile half-marathon. Runners also took part in the Marathon Relay, Susan G. Komen 5K and ELI’s One-Mile Run.

This year's Overall Winner, Justin Pfruender, right, with hsi wife Cheryl, who competed in the half-marathon. Photo courtesy- Wrightsville Beach Marathon.
This year’s Overall Winner, Justin Pfruender, right, with hsi wife Cheryl, who competed in the half-marathon. (Photo courtesy of Wrightsville Beach Marathon)

Justin Pfruender, 36, of Winston Salem, took home the overall trophy with a time just over two hours and 33 minutes (02:33:38). Three different runners, including Pfruender (00:05:52), had a one-mile pace of under six minutes.

Zack Beavin, 22, of Lexington, Kentucky, was the top half-marathon runner at 1 hour, nine minutes and 52 seconds (01:09:52).  Wilmington resident Erik Rasmussen, 41, who hosts a series of running tours around the world, including a run of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru was sixth in the 13.1 trek.

Click here for complete results from this weekend’s festivities.

The annual running of the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon also serves as a Boston Marathon Qualifying Race. The 121st running of the Boston Marathon is set for April 17.  Eight male and 12 female marathoners from the Wilmington area were among the 76 runners who qualified for Boston.


Wilmington area Boston Marathon Qualifiers

  • Travis Lukasik, 35, Wilmington NC
  • Keith Parrella, 43, Hampstead NC
  • Christopher Holub, 40, Wilmington NC
  • Derrick Hickey, 46, Wilmington, NC
  • Donnie Norris, 53, Wilmington NC
  • Lee Johnson, 52, Wilmington NC
  • Michael St. Jacques, 52, Wilmington NC
  • Karen Eckberg, 32, Wilmington NC
  • Christina Carradine, 29, Wilmington NC
  • Jamie Ash, 31, Jacksonville, NC
  • Elizabeth Grune, 23, Wilmington NC
  • Erin Hogston, 36, Wilmington, NC
  • Elizabeth Soporowski, 35, Wilmington NC
  • Bridget Phillips, 40, Wilmington NC
  • Cody Hoffman, 40, Wilmington NC
  • Jen Brady, 41, Wilmington NC
  • Heather Braithwaite, 42, Wilmington NC
  • Stephanie Goodwin, 41, Wilmington NC
  • Shannon Maus, 57, Wilmington NC