For a while I was really concerned about whether we were going to be able to find a running event in Martin County, one of the "tough seven" counties to include in the countdown because of the lack of running events in the area. However, with building concerns about health and obesity, and because of some demonstrated economic development benefits, some locations are getting more interested in bringing running and walking events to their residents, and that's what happened in Martin County.
The Martin County 5k Turkey Trot is a new event that was organized by the Martin County Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Martin Community College and several other sponsors. The organizers mentioned they would really like to get more people to take part in the future, so hopefully their desire to make it an annual event will be fulfilled. However, they do need to get some assistance and expertise on their team to iron out some of the rough patches they experienced in their inaugural run.
Race morning was nice and clear and cool as we arrived on the Martin Community College in the morning, but with the race time scheduled for after 9:30 a.m., I knew we would have some time for the sun to break through the morning chill. And exactly what time was the race, anyway? The online registration form I had been using as my guide and the event management website where I registered said 9:30 a.m. But it was just after 9:00 a.m. when they called all the 5k runners over to the starting line for a course review and then started us off! Good thing I got there early and didn't go out for a warm-up run, or I would have missed the race!
Anyway, there were a good number of runners and walkers out for the event, which also included a 1-mile family fun walk (which was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. but started about 8:30 a.m. instead). There was lots of talk among the runners about race reviews for the Outer Banks Marathon and Half-Marathon which had taken place the previous weekend (glad to hear I wasn't the only one done in by the bridge at mile 10) and about a few upcoming races in Greenville, including the Dash for Cash 10-Miler in December. It is a very nice thing we've learned in the countdown that runners all over the state are very friendly and love to talk about running, the races they've done, and what they have planned, and the runners we met in Martin County were no different.
The Riverside High School band (home of the Knights) pepped up the crowd before the events and played the national anthem before the start of the 1-mile walk -- and then scattered! Yep, it was cold, but maybe they could have played something for the 5k start. Two wonderful ladies handled packet pickup -- with only 49 finishers they weren't overwhelmed with registrations -- and it turned out shirts were only ordered for the handful of folks who had pre-registered before the start of November, so the 1st annual Martin County 5k Turkey Trot shirt may turn out to be one of the more collectible ones due to its scarcity!
Once we got started running, the chill in the air didn't feel so bad. We made a quick loop around the main building of MCC and then headed out onto Kehukee Park Road. A bunch of horses in an adjoining pasture watched us and actually came on up to the corner as if they were intrigued by the two-footed racers that were in their area. We ran Kehukee Park Road from end to end and back, with deputies from the Martin County Sheriff's Office handling traffic control at each end (come on, guy, you can at least get out of the patrol car so the runners can thank you for your efforts without having to talk through your rolled-up window). The course was marvelously flat and the temps were still cool, so it was very, very nice running weather.
One the route back to Martin Community College, we detoured off Kehukee Park Road (actually, I just like saying, "Kehukee") and made a loop around the MCC horse arena. MCC must have a good equine program, because there is a large set of buildings around the arena dedicated to horses and their health and activity. The loop around the horse arena went by quick, and then we passed the 2-mile mark, with me still running pretty well and feeling good.
Back through the MCC parking lot we went -- and to the finish line? That seemed like an awfully quick last mile, and it wasn't even that. It will look in the records like I ran my first sub-20:00 5k in decades, but the course was very short -- we only ran about 2.2 miles in this 5k, according to my Garmin. Subsequent inspection of the map indicated that the course was probably going to be short anyway -- the finish line was right at the 3-mile sign -- but it appears that course monitors also directed us to the finish line too quickly, leaving out an intended 0ut-and-back to another adjoining road (eyeballing it still didn't look like it would have been enough to make a full 5k).
Still, though, everyone seemed to be having a good time, and while the runners stood around joking about all their new PRs (the winner clocked a sub-14:00 finish time), the joggers and walkers continued to finish to celebrations for getting out and being active, so I guess for its purpose, the event was still a success. Run the East was the race management company for this event, and they probably should have recognized the times were too fast, but RtE had a bunch of events that morning and Martin County probably didn't get the A-team. The folks putting on the race didn't appear to be very familiar with running events, and they may not have even known they had a short-course situation (they didn't mention it in the post-race comments and awards). Some of the local runners talked hopefully about the idea of moving the race to downtown Williamston in future years to take advantage of the historic area and more open areas, but I enjoyed seeing the horse farms and country roads this morning. There was a post-race spread of bottled water and bananas (but no trash cans?) and medallions for the overall and age-group winners. Unfortunately, with age-group spreads like 18-39 and 40-64, there were too many runners in each group to allow real age-group racing.
It was a lovely morning in Martin County for their inaugural Turkey Trot 5k, and I hope they will be able to bring out more runners and correct some of the problems they experienced in their first event. It is a lovely area, and with the flat elevations in this part of "down east" North Carolina, they should have the base to build up a great event in future years!