Well, after a few misses on postponed trips and canceled races, we finally made it out to "lil' Washington" in Beaufort County, where the Tar and Pamlico Rivers divide the county into the north shore and south shore. Washington is situated where the rivers just begin to divide the county, and it's the location of the last bridge to span the divide (a ferry route joins the two halves further downstream). As one of the places where the freshwater begins to to meet the saltwater, it's also home to the North Carolina Estuarium, a museum dedicated to the knowledge of the unique marine and animal life of the area. And the Estuarium was a great site for the 9th annual running of the YoungLife of the Pamlico 5k.
YoungLife is an excellent Christian organization that works with teenagers, providing guidance, counseling, and outreach opportunities. Since Chad and I are both Christians, we always enjoy getting to support organizations like YoungLife and take part in really great events that they put on -- like our trip to the YoungLife 5k in Cabarrus County at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was gloomy and rainy in the Triangle when we set out on the 2-hour ride in the tour bus to Beaufort County, but we outdistanced the rain as we moved east and were treated to a nice, clear sunrise along the river when we got to Washington. Race headquarters and packet pick-up were being organized in a bandstand gazebo in a park adjacent to the Estuarium and right alongside the river. The riverfront, especially around the Estuarium, is a nice mix of parkland, boardwalk, and walkable marina so you can get out for a pleasant walk or run along the river anytime. It was no trouble getting checked in and meeting some of the other runners as we waited to get started.
Fortunately, the Washington area is very flat, so it looked to be a very speedy run for those up front as we headed out from the waterfront and into some of the surrounding neighborhoods. From my spot safe in the back of the pack, I got to enjoy the beautiful blooms of landscaped yards and pleasant old homes in the waterfront area. We made a few turns and went right down Main Street -- how many of these small-town races have been right down Main Street? -- where we saw old churches and graveyards, the old local armory, and beautiful old homes with big front porches and gingerbread trim work. There were volunteers from YoungLife at each intersection to make sure runners didn't miss a turn and that what little traffic there was could be held back. Plus, the Washington Police Department (both cars?) were there to watch traffic at the big intersection.
As we approached a mile, we crossed a bridge over a tributary and went into Washington Park, a separate neighborhood that bumps right up against the river, with its own park and median-separated streets. These were some bigger, more stately and older homes, but sprinkled in were some obvious newer estates. They all had wonderful landscaping and you could smell all the scents of the spring blooms from each yard. More YoungLife volunteers had set up an aid station around the halfway mark, and it was nice to get a quick splash of water before making a few more turns and heading back to the waterfront.
As we headed back over the bridge I got to encourage some of the trail walkers who were just headed into the park, and then another turn put me back on Main Street headed back to the waterfront. Although the clouds had started to roll in, it certainly looked like we were going to get the whole event in before there was any chance of rain. The YoungLife volunteers cheered for all of us as we knocked out that last mile, and there was even one young man who could cheer and juggle at the same time. We made the last turn at the waterfront, and then it was only about a fifty-yard sprint to the finish line.
Post-run, they had an excellent setup of fruit, bagels, Gatorade, and water while the results were compiled. I went out for a cool-down jog and was glad to see there was even some food left over when I got back. Overall and age-group winners all received medals, and they should get special recognition for all the kids they encouraged to come out for the race! Some of those youngun's were pretty fast, and YoungLife made sure there were enough kids' age-group divisions for all of them to have the chance to win something.
As we headed back in the tour bus after the race, with the first few raindrops of the approaching weather hitting the windshield, we reflected on how YoungLife had put on a pretty good event and had excellent turnout, with more than 200 finishers in the 5k. We liked the beautiful, scenic location and course, the serviceable t-shirts, and the great race amenities and friendliness of the hosts. I'm glad we finally made it down to lil' Washington so that we can see this part of the state, and hopefully we'll be here again soon!