FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Officials from Fayetteville and Fort Bragg spent months planning for Sunday's inaugural All American Marathon. So when race winner Masashi Shirotake crossed the finish line two-and-a-half hours later, the cheers of the crowds along Fort Bragg's Capron Street signaled not only his win, but the success of the very first marathon of its kind.
The All American is Fayetteville's first marathon and has required large-scale coordination between the city, where the race started, and Fort Bragg, where runners crossed the finish line.
A total of 3,725 runners from 48 states and five countries participated in the day's races, which included the full and half marathons and a 5k on post.
Race director Rachel Quesada said she had no opportunity to sleep Saturday night. Instead, she spent the night setting up the course. She had been helping set up the Finish Festival at Bragg's Main Post Parade Field since 3 a.m.
But the final product made all the effort worthwhile.
"We had tons of participation and support from the community," Quesada said. "So, I'm very happy with the way things have gone."
The marathon and the Mike to Mike Half Marathon kicked off with the boom of a howitzer in downtown just after 6:30 a.m. Runners circled the Market House before heading west on Morganton Road and up the All American Freeway onto Fort Bragg.
Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson was downtown for the start of the race before moving to the finish line to greet runners as they crossed.
"I was very impressed with the logistics of the whole marathon," Robertson said. "You had two great teams come together to pull this off. It was a beautiful start to an inaugural marathon."
Even before the start of the race, runners from the community voiced a sense of pride about the event's inception.
And many runners embraced the patriotic spirit of the events, carrying U.S. flags, or wearing red, white and blue.
Lt. Col. Jay Nelson, the commander of Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion, ran the half marathon. He's on his third tour at Fort Bragg, with about 14 years of total time at the post.
"I think everybody's doing an outstanding job," Nelson said. "I'm excited that we're going to feature Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, and that it's a community event. It's not just something that we do on Bragg."
Shirotake, a native of Japan who lives in Charlotte, won the marathon. Tana Kornachuk of Whispering Pines was the top female finisher.
Matthew Waller of Durham, the winner of the Mike to Mike Half Marathon, crossed the line about an hour and fifteen minutes after the start. Heather Costello of Lugoff, S.C., was the top female female finisher in the half marathon.
"This was really well-organized for a first-year race," Waller said. "So I'm optimistic that it will grow."
Thousands of people volunteered at the race and woke up early to cheer from sidewalks along the route as the runners cut across the city. Spectators made signs, clapped and shouted words of support to runners breezing by, and those who needed a little encouragement as fatigue took over.
Demi Bateman played a form of leapfrog along the route, driving from one spot to the next so she could keep the support going for her friend, Athena Trujillo. Bateman and Trujillo work together as nurses at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
Trujillo was running the Mike to Mike Half Marathon in honor of a friend in the military who died, Bateman said.
"This is her first half ever," Bateman said.
At 6:30 a.m., Bateman held a silver sign with the words "Go Athena" as Trujillo prepared to start. The sign also called attention to the 13.1-mile distance of the race, then noted that it was also more than 69,000 feet and more than 23,000 yards.
Shortly after the race started, Bateman and her sign moved to the 1.5-mile mark. Then she rushed to the 4-mile mark at Morganton Road near the McPherson Church Road intersection, and then to the Santa Fe Drive overpass at the All American Freeway.
Bateman said she was going to the 10-mile mark, then to the finish line so she could cheer for her friend.
"I'm so proud of her," she said.
As runners in each race crossed the line, and the temperature warmed up into the high 70s near noon, thousands took to the Parade Field to enjoy the events of the Finish Festival.
The crowd was treated to live entertainment, courtesy of the 82nd Airborne Division's rock band, a parachute demonstration by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's Black Daggers and a slew of vendors.
There also were bounce houses and a rock wall, making the festival a family-friendly attraction, even for community members who didn't run in the day's races.
The All American was the first full marathon for Pfc. Eric Snyder, a soldier with 1-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Snyder, a native of Chicago, said the race was comparable to other organized runs he had participated in.
"I think some people look at Fayetteville and think nothing good ever happens here," Snyder said. "But they've done a good thing here."
Staff writers Steve DeVane and Bret Strelow contributed to this story.