When we heard about the Friday evening Best Dam 5-Mile Run in Lake Lure of Rutherford County, it was an easy decision to add it to the Countdown. It's always nice to get back into the mountains, and the Lake Lure resort of Rumbling Bald was easy to find and reach with plenty of time before the 7:00 p.m. start. There was plenty of opportunity to drive the course, survey the area, and meet some other competitors.
The 5-mile run on Friday evening kicks off the weekend-long Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad; while the runners near the finish line on the lake's sandy beach, the Olympiad's caldron is lit, and the race is followed with ice cream and live music. The Olympiad's biggest event is the triathlon on Saturday morning, where competitors swim in Lake Lure from the resort and then bike and run along mountain roads for some very pretty vistas. Kayak races, a 5k mountain run and a volleyball tournament are also part of the Olympiad.
After parking at Rumbling Bald Resort on the north side of Lake Lure, we rode a van over to the starting line at a fire station on the south side of the lake. There were only 33 runners in the race, so it wasn't hard getting checked-in. Right at 7:00, we were ushered onto the main road for the race start and sent on our way back to Rumbling Bald. The course was very challenging; within the first mile we crossed the man-made dam that gives the race its name and started up the biggest of the mountain hills that made up the course. The majority of the first two miles are uphill and were very challenging, but after the two-mile mark there were some very long, very appreciated downhill stretches, including the last section to the finish. The race organizers did a great job getting the mountain road shut down for the safety of the runners, and we counted at least three support vehicles and Gators with EMTs and police monitoring the progress of each runner -- not counting the ambulance that trailed the pack.
The course included some nice views of the lake that I would have enjoyed more if I hadn't been struggling up the hills. With less than a mile to go, the runners can see the beach finish area, hear the PA announcer and see the flames boiling in the Olympiad's caldron. That provided a nice second wind to start pushing down the last downhill, into the resort, and along the beach to the finish -- where there was a pretty good audience welcoming the finishers. The volunteers presented each finisher with their t-shirt (nice) and after the winners were announced, the ice cream party and live band started up. Chad won his age group with an excellent 43:14 time and my 54:05 time was good enough for third in my group, so we each received a Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad medal. Actually, this was a great race for awards as 29 of the 33 entrants received either an overall or age group award.
They've got a great race in Rutherford County with the Best Dam 5-Mile Run. If you like running in the mountains, it's a must-do. The Olympiad atmosphere is great, and I really liked finishing on the beach with all the party stuff around us. At some point I need to check out the whole weekend of festivities and see what the Saturday triathlon and the Sunday morning 5k up the hill are like. I'll come back for the Best Dam 5-Mile Run again.