Just ask anyone in the Raleigh running community if they know Bobby Mack and they are sure to flash a smile and a nod. The 31-year-old elite runner and North Carolina State University standout has put down stakes in the state’s largest city since 2006.
For the past ten years, Mack has logged thousands of miles throughout the greater Raleigh area with the same dreams of any elite runner: To win big races and consistently improve times. In 2011, he prevailed at the U.S. 8K Championships without a big-name sponsor like Nike on his singlet. Mack, who is proud of being called a “blue-collar” runner, ran for his local running store, Capital RunWalk, where he worked.
Since 2009, Mack has boasted an impressive array of performances as a professional. He’s an eight-time Team USA member and competed in the 2013 World Cross-Country Championships where the U.S. squad won the silver medal.
The road to victory won’t be easy for Mack on Sunday at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon presented by WRAL, where he prevailed last year. He will square off against world-class Kenyans like Geoffrey Kenisi who’s 1:00:28 half-marathon PR is nearly three minutes faster than Mack’s 1:03:10. Another Kenyan, Josphat Kiptanui Too is expected to be in the mix as well with his impressive 1:02:00 PR.
But regardless of how Mack does in the 13.1-mile event, he’s sure to get plenty of smiles and cheers along the way for one key reason: Sunday will be his last race as an elite. Mack has decided to hang up his spikes and start a new career in retirement services for Fidelity. Mack is also starting a family as he and his wife, Carrie, are expecting their first child next month.
“I’m phasing out of that part of running—the professional part where I’m chasing times and the Olympics,” Mack admits. “I will still run as much as I can for fun. But the time commitment to it is going to change. I want to end my career in a special place to me, which is why I’m racing in Raleigh.”
Raleigh is near and dear to Mack’s heart. “I started my running career here and I met my wife here when we went to NC State,” he says. “I ran a lot of small races at the beginning and had a ton of hometown support. It’s that support that pushed me and kept me going in those early years. I’ve called it home and will continue to call it home.”
Mack says he’s in good shape for his last professional race. “This year I hope to run a decent time like sub-66 [minutes],” he says. “It’s hard for a competitive person like myself to enjoy a race, but I want to do that on Sunday. I want to use it to kind of reflect on my last true high-level race where I will be putting it all on the line. ”
Elites aside, thousands of other runners will be donning their racing flats to compete in both the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon and full marathon on Sunday. The races kick off at 7 a.m. and takes participants from all over the country and the world through the scenic parts of the “city of oak.”
As with all Rock ‘n’ Roll races, great tunes will never be in short supply with St. Lucia headlining the stage at the Red Hat Amphitheater.