This weekend the tour bus rolled into Columbia, North Carolina, a small town on the south side of the Albemarle Sound and bordered by the Scuppernong River. They celebrate life on the water each October with the Scuppernong Riverfest, and many times in the past the festival has included the Scuppernong Riverfest 5k. The race lapsed for a couple of years, but it made a return in 2010, so it was our job to get there and have a chance to run in Tyrrell County. (TER-rel, not TEER-rel, Katie; I asked all the locals.)
The Scuppernong River was as smooth as glass on race morning, and as I did my warmup run on the bridge, you could tell it was going to be a wonderfully clear, wonderfully cool morning on the river. The race was starting at 7:00 a.m. in order to leave the roads clear for the festival setup, so the runners had the downtown area to ourselves for the race.
The 5k wasn't a very big race, probably less than 50 runners, but the organizers, who were part of the Ride to a Wish, a charity cycling organization, were very excited about having the 5k compliment their other fundraising efforts. They had assembled very nice goodie bags for all the runners and managed a pretty good walk-up registration. There were very good pre-and post-run food and drink options for the runners, and the race director, Don Coberly, seemed to be everywhere at once, checking on all the details.
We started just a block off the river, so we had good views of the riverfront as we took off, and we could also see the preparations being made for the street fair later that day. The course was very well marked, whether you were running the 5k or the 1-mile fun-run. And in addition to the nice cool morning, the race route could not have been more blissfully flat. Probably not surprising, given our proximity to the river, the sound and the nearby Outer Banks. The downtown area we ran through was wonderful small-town Americana, with little brick churches, a big library and senior center, and big front porches already decorated for Halloween.
After some turns and straightaways through town, we turned and headed out into the countryside on -- no kidding -- Road Street. Aid station workers had set up a quick water stop at the volunteer fire department. One loop of the course took us on a little gravel road through a small neighborhood, and then we made the turn heading back towards town. We made a trip by a farm where a very active watchdog was upset he couldn't come out and join the runners, and then we passed by a quiet country graveyard before making the turn back into town.
As we passed back through the center of Columbia, I realized I had been feeling pretty good and had the chance to turn in a decent performance. I tried to pick it up as best I could as we returned on the same streets we had been on earlier, so I knew where the turns were and how far we had to get back to the starting line. A few more lefts and rights, and I could see the finish line ahead, so I powered it back in as best as I could and enjoyed the cheering of the volunteers and the runners who had finished ahead of me. The race was being timed without chips, but my Garmin and the finish-line digital clock agreed it was my best 5k of the year. I was very pleased and enjoyed my post-race apple slices and Gatorade very much!
After the race, I got to walk back to my lodging along the main street where the street fair was being set up. Lots of local craft vendors were setting up shop, many local food vendors were setting up on food row, and I even saw some senior citizens coming early to get good seats for the parade and live entertainment that started up in a little while. The Riverfest parade was a lot of fun -- any parade should be legally required to have Shriners and high school bands in it -- and I had a great time checking out the food booths for my post-run lunch. I had a great time in Columbia, and I'm very happy the Scuppernong Riverfest 5k is back!
When in Columbia, Chad and Brad and our support staff stay at the Brickhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast! Lee Brickhouse runs a great place and cooks a wonderful country breakfast! I had such a good time, I wrote him a new jingle: "Stay at the ... BRICK (da da da da) HOUSE! (da da DA da)...it's mighty comfy! And the front porch wraps around! Stay at the ... BRICK (da da da da) HOUSE! (da da DA da) It's the one -- the only one -- to stay for the Scuppernong! Yeah! Scuppernong, Suppernong-nong! Scuppernong, Scuppernong, Scuppernong-nong!" (You're welcome, Lee!)