The Rumba on the Lumber 5k in Lumberton, NC of Robeson County advertises in a lot of local publications, so when there was an opportunity to go take part and collect another county, it was easy to take the 90-minute hop down to the NC/SC border. In contrast to some of the first-thing-in-the-morning races, the Robeson Road Runners start the Rumba at 11:00 a.m., plenty of time to arrive, check out the event, run, and have a good time post-race.
The 5k and the huge Family Fun Mile are the central morning events of the Rumba on the Lumber Festival, which includes a chili cook-off, craft fair, kids' area, local food vendors, live music and a whole lot of fun. This helps the 5k, in the words of RRR president Wendell Staton, "mushroom" over the last few years. And the Family Fun Mile really is huge, numbering near 1,000 folks in all -- there were walkers still going off in waves from the starting line even as the speedy folks were coming to the finish line.
Large numbers of entrants and spectators also blessed the 5k, which benefited from a beautiful March morning, with temperatures pushing into the high 70s and low 80s. The course was wonderfully flat, started in downtown Lumberton (right in front of the county courthouse), wound out through some of the adjacent neighborhoods, and turned onto a mile-long straightaway that finished back downtown on the opposite side of the courthouse. The course was packed with interested spectators, many of which were greeting the runners by name as they passed by -- it was like most of Lumberton were either watching the race or running in it. And we were also blessed with some very exuberant volunteers and course monitors, all of whom brought their own boom boxes or opened their car doors to blast tunes for the runners, from Jimmy Buffet to blues to praise music. It was a hot run late in the morning, but overall a lot of fun to run.
Post-race, the festival was really in full swing. UNC-Pembroke, which provided some of the course volunteers, had a nice display for finisher pictures, including the UNC-P mascot. The chili cook-off opened during the 5k, and all the 5k runners were allowed in free. Probably twenty or more groups were giving out samples of their chili recipes, with all kinds of creative themes and get-ups. A really good cover band was entertaining the crowd, and the adults in the chili cook-off received free beers, too. Hard to complain about a race that features all that!
I can see why the Rumba on the Lumber 5k has such a good reputation and why it turns out a great crowd each year. Plus, it was nice to see fellow NCRCers there, including Tim Karnatz, Val Price and Gary Moss. Hopefully I'll be back for another Rumba in the future!