Was that the starter's pistol? Nope, just an artillery shell.
Hoke County, Fort Bragg and the Regional Land Use Advisory Commission opened the All-American Trail in April 2007. The trail parallels the border of Fort Bragg for about eleven miles, with both flat stretches and some surprising hills. The trail includes periodic signage highlighting the local flora and fauna, but there are also warnings not to stray off the trail. With the sounds of artillery shells going off in the distance, there was no temptation to go wandering, however.
The Hoke 5k All-American Trail Run helps promote the trail and the Healthy Hoke Task Force, an effort to help make Hoke County families healthier. In addition to the 5k, there was a sizeable contingent of walkers taking part as well. Although it's not a big race, the All-American Trail is a great location for the event, and it had a lot of nice touches that made it very enjoyable.
Race morning was a little cooler than the previous week, with temperatures in the high 30's and low 40's, but with clear skies and bright sunshine. Registering and checking in was a snap, and all the volunteers were happy and very welcoming to the runners and walkers. Getting lined up with a small field was no problem, and we were away!
The AAT has an excellent running surface. It's mostly sand and clay, and the recent rains had left parts of the trail rutty and muddy. Although there are pine trees on both sides of the trail, they are not so dense that you can't see the fields and woods in the distance on either side. The few streams that the trail crosses have been bridged with standard wood bridges, and there are mile markers all along so that you can track your distance. For our race, a 1.5-mile stretch had been identified for us to do an out-and-back 5k.
The small running field spread out in a hurry, but since the trail is mostly straight we had a good view both ahead and behind. With the out-and-back configuration it was easy to see the field at the turn-around, and we had plenty of chances to encourage each other and the walkers that were trailing behind all the runners. Two aid stations kept us all hydrated, and after the quick jog we were all back at the start/finish area. At the finish I thought that someone was playing some nice bluegrass on a speaker system, but then I passed a trail sign and discovered it was actually two musicians playing a banjo and fiddle. Live bluegrass at a race -- how cool is that!
After all the runners and walkers had completed the course, all the awards, including door prizes were handed out. It was a nice surprise to win my age group and receive a nice certificate, a canteen and a gift certificate! The t-shirts were good, and there was plenty of food and drink for everyone afterwards. All in all, a very enjoyable morning and a very good race. It's definitely worth going back to see some more of the All-American Trail.