First off, you really have to give big-time props to the folks in Windsor, North Carolina. Earlier this month, they had severe flooding -- the mayor of Windsor even mentioned in his pre-race remarks that a few weeks ago he was paddling a canoe in the parking lot where the race festivities were set up this morning. Several people mentioned how important it was to the local folks that the 1st annual Bertie Spooktacular 5k & Family Fun Run and Walk go off as scheduled, so lots of work was done to make sure that all the runners and volunteers coming to town would still have an event! Big congratulations to all of them for the work they have done to keep this event on-track and possible, even after everything they've been through this month. If you look at this picture from the flood coverage, the starting area for the race is the flooded street on the left side of the picture.
It was important to keep the race going because it has as a beneficiary the Good Shepherd Food Pantry of Bertie County, Inc. The food pantry is very important because of the needs of the area, so a good event would mean good turnout and good benefits for the pantry. For the runners, the race organizers were able to raise enough support from all the race sponsors to have a very impressive purse for the runners: first place overall for each gender was worth $600, with $300 for second and $100 for third. With those kinds of awards, it's no surprise that Raleigh running legends Bobby Mack and Devin Swann, plus a handful of very speedy Kenyans from Chapel Hill, all came out for the race.
Although it was a very, very cool Saturday morning, the atmosphere was very festive with lots of charity booths set up, runners and organizers walking around in costume, and even the North Carolina National Guard military band playing marches. FS Series was managing the event, so they had their big black Finish arch set up and registration and packet pickup were well underway. Having the family fun run and walk be a part of the event increased the turnout with more families attending and lots more folks in costume walking around.
After the mayor and organizers had spoken and the National Guard band had played the national anthem, we finally got all lined up and took off down the course. The speedsters up front were running an unreal pace and were out of sight not long after the start. The mood of the runners, though, was very festive and in many cases we were happy for the chance to get moving and warm up! The first mile was on some service roads, some unpaved, a block or two off the Windsor main drag, but then we made a few turns and were running through a very nice subdivision with some pretty houses. However, we did pass the FEMA Disaster Relief Services set up in a local church, so we did get some reminders of what the town had been through a few weeks earlier.
In the second mile, some enthusiastic volunteers provided an aid station and marshalled every turn on the course. The Windsor Police Department were also out for traffic control and took very good care of the runners and walkers. There were some gradual hills scattered throughout the course, which kind of surprised me since we were pretty close to the coast, but fortunately they were all pretty manageable and not severe. And the downhills provided some good relief! Eventually we had finished circling the neighborhood and were retracing our steps in the last mile back to the start/finish area. But I was feeling very good and tried to push it all the way in to the FS Series Finish arch, and I ended up being rewarded with my best 5k time of the year so far! There was plenty of bottled water, bagels and fruit for the finishers, and we were able to see the family fun run and walk start up with their own participants getting out on the course.
All in all, after everything they've been through in Windsor, it was a great inaugural race and should set a good foundation for some bigger events to come. The performances by the elite runners were very impressive, with five of the men breaking the 15-minute barrier! Bobby was nipped at the finish line by one of the Chapel Hill Kenyans and had to settle for a second-place 14:09, and Devin was fourth with a 14:49. In all, 73 runners completed the 5k.
Congrats to the folks in Bertie County (ber-TEE, not BER-tee) for having a great event! The Spooktacular 5k should be one of the best events down east for many years to come!