Wow, what a difference a month makes! The 27th annual Winter Flight 8k, a long-running event organized by the Salisbury Rowan Runners club, was originally scheduled for last month, but one of the January snowstorms postponed it to today. (Also appropriate for a race with a director named David Freeze.) And today turned out to be one of those wonderful, 60-degree days in a North Carolina February, so the postponement caused by the snowstorm turned out to yield probably a 40-degree increase in race-day temperature!
The wonderful weather at Catawba College (home of the Indians) in historic Salisbury brought out a great big race crowd. The race was also the RRCA North Carolina 8k championship, so that helped bring out the runners. Goodman Gymnasium provided a great location for check-in while the little kids did the half-mile Kids' Run on the track in Shuford Stadium. Finally we were called into the street for a playing of the national anthem and an invocation -- then we were off!
The Winter Flight 8k is a challenging race. There are a lot of significant uphills, and it seems like there are some downhills missing to make it all even. The start was moderately uphill, and after a brief downhill, there was a long, climbing mile along Statesville Boulevard before we got a short respite. After a quick gulp of water just after the 2-mile mark, there was another climbing mile; this one had a soundtrack provided by a bog just off the road that must have been filled with some waking bullfrogs checking their voices.
While we were out ascending every hill in Rowan County, they had a Fun Run mile back at the finish area. I don't know what the mile route was, but the mile winners got trophies just as nice as the 8k winner trophies later on.
Fortunately for the 8k runners, the fourth mile was majority downhill, and we got to see some of the fauna of the Salisbury backroads when we passed a group of chickens hanging out on the side of the road as we passed by. However, there was one big hill left to go once we came back into historic Salisbury, but when we made the right-hand turn at the top of the hill, we were back on the Catawba campus and it was mostly downhill to the finish. So of course our paces picked up a little bit as we skirted some parking areas and made the turn onto the Shuford Stadium track for almost a full lap to the finish line. A stadium announcer recognized most of the runners as they hurried down the last straightaway, and some very efficient race volunteers pulled our bib tags to prepare the results for this chip-less race. (I also got a finishing index card showing my official finish place of 197.)
Although the post-race refreshments were set up back in Goodman Gymnasium, the weather was so nice back at the stadium that no one was really leaving, and finally they had to make some announcements over the PA system to let folks know about the food. When we finally moseyed from the stadium over to the gym, we found excellent Biscuitville biscuits, bananas, bagels and Cheerwine waiting for us. The hand-compiled results were ready before too long and a whole tableful of Winter Flight trophies were handed out to the winners, including the winner of the men's 70+ age group, who ran a very impressive under-39:00 time on a very challenging course! All in all, 250 runners were listed in the final results.
I had a great time at the Winter Flight 8k, and I am glad for the warmer weather! Congrats to all the runners and to the organizers for a great event!