Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lee County - Run the BUCK 5k - April 21, 2012

Festivals and celebrations have been a big help in trying to find races to run in a lot of North Carolina's counties. A great example of that is the Run the BUCK 5k race in Broadway, North Carolina, which hosts the "Broadway Our Way" festival each spring ("more fun than NYC!"). Although the festival has been going on for many years, four years ago they were looking for some active, family-involved ways to kick the festivities off in the early morning, and they settled on the Run the BUCK 5k road race (now accompanied by the Ride the BUCK cycling events of 50k and 100k).

The "BUCK" name comes from the race's origins; originally the working name for the race was "Broadway Under the Caution light 5K" or "Begins Under the Caution light 5K", and the BUCK abbreviation stuck. (Yes, Broadway does have only one light, a flashing caution light as you enter town on -- what else -- Main Street.) The BUCK name comes in handy for providing a theme for race shirts and trophies, which have featured buck deer. And, it only costs a few bucks to sign up.

Race morning this year was cool and overcast, a big change from the more mild temperatures we've been having most of the spring. And you could feel it was more humid than usual, not a big surprise given the rain forecast for later in the day. But, as someone pointed out as we milled around the registration area, even rain would be better than last year's weather, when Saturday afternoon tornadoes really tore up wide areas of Lee County. No such forecasts this year, though.

Getting through registration was a breeze, so there was time to wander around the setup of the Broadway My Way festival. Although lots of vendors were setting up their stands and the BBQ cookoff was filling the air with scents, I was immediately drawn to the display of antique cars and vintage farm tractors. A very pretty 1940 Packard and a mint 1979 Ford Ranger were some of the nicest cars there, along with a 1938 Chevy that had been converted into a hearse. The Farmall tractors dating back to the 50s and 40s had been well-maintained, and one of them was even being used to pull a tram from the farthest festival parking areas.

Eventually Broadway mayor Don Andrews called all the runners to the starting line and gave us quick directions on the event. (The race now starts just off Main Street, not under the caution light.) He gave us an overview of the route, where the water station would be, and some advice on the dogs: they love to come out and bark at runners and bikers, but they're all behind invisible fences. When the bullhorn started blaring "Fur Elise", it was time to run!

Fortunately, the area just east of the sandhills is relatively flat, so we were in for a very fast run. There were only a few gradual rises that we had to negotiate, and most of the route was flat or only had a bit of elevation change. The course took us through a lot of the residential neighborhoods out along the town outskirts, and it was a very pleasant surprise to see many of those living along the race route out to either cheer or gawk at the runners, including one whole family that came out to watch the runners go by. The Lee County sheriff had some deputies out as well to watch over traffic control, and volunteers monitored most of the intersections to make sure we didn't get lost. (There were very good pavement markings to make sure we didn't miss anything.)

Just before the halfway point we passed by a water station, and then we made a very pleasant loop around the Broadway Town Park, which circles a good-sized lake and includes walking trails, observation benches, and the town council headquarters. This was a very pretty spot in the run, and one of the houses that backed up to the lake had a fence along the street that was just covered and weighted down with gorgeous rose bushes, almost all of which were packed with deep-red blooms. Very, very pretty. The remnants of spring were visible in many other of the groomed lawns, but those rose bushes were the highlight of the route.

After we left the town park we passed by the two-mile mark and then it was back through some different neighborhoods back to the festival area. There were a couple of uphills here that knocked my pace down somewhat, but I was still pleased that the morning coolness and relatively flat course was helping me knock out some good miles. Some helpful volunteers stopped traffic for us as we crossed Main Street back to the start/finish area, and then we made a few final turns around one of the churches. As I rounded the last turn I could see 29:50-something on the finish line clock, but I had too much ground to cover to be able to get under the 30:00 mark that is usually my 5k goal. But it was still one of my better 5Ks of the year, so I was very pleased. There was nice, cold water available for us right after the finish line, and they had the results compiled very quickly after the last runner had finished. I was even more surprised to come home with 3rd place in my age group -- definitely a good run for me!

The scent of BBQ was getting even stronger as we walked around post-race soaking up the Broadway Our Way sights and sounds. It was a lot of fun to be in this part of Lee County in the morning, and I'll definitely have to come back to see if I can get beat that 30-minute clock next year!

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