Well, so far none of the races in our countdown have used "The Wizard of Oz" as a theme, but that record was about to be broken as we arrived in Roxboro for this 5-miler in Person County. Getting runners to come out and run in the heat and humidity of a North Carolina July is always a challenge, but having a big themed race was a good strategy. And there actually was a very good crowd that showed up at Northern Middle School for the race. It was good to see fellow NCRC runner Val Price and my running friend Wendy Sibley also on hand for the festivities.
The race organizers had encouraged "Wizard of Oz" costumes, and it was good to see that some folks had taken the suggestion to heart. Wendy was wearing a full Muchkin costume; one of the organizers was the Witch of the East (pre-house falling on her), another fellow was duded up as the Wizard, and four girls ran together as a flying monkey, the rainbow, Glenda the good witch, and Dorothy. (Even the eventual second-place male runner got great compliments on his Dorothy dress.) Naturally, I decided just to dress up as a slow runner.
Pre-race was no problem; they were well organized and the volunteers were able to check us all in or register us with no delays. There was a local dance troupe that entertained us with routines set to "Wizard of Oz" music before we started, and plenty of updates from the race directors. Eventually we were all encouraged to line up in the main driveway so that they could walk us about a quarter-mile down the main road to where the starting line had been marked across the road. We were talking amongst ourselves when suddenly an air horn blew and it was time to run! Our first mile took us back towards the school, around it, in through the back entrance, and back out the front, so all the spectators -- and there were plenty of them -- got a good view of how their runners were starting out. Then we were back out on the main road, with a quick detour down and back up the streets of a nearby subdivision. The houses were very pretty, and some of them were still decorated from July Fourth, but the most noticable feature was the first big hill of the course as we made our turnaround and headed back out.
Just about two miles in we reached the water station, and a couple of friendly volunteers got us all re-hydrated as we continued our jog away from the school. I hadn't known much about the Roxboro topography before the trip, but it was obvious that Person County, up along the Virginia border, has its fair share of elevation changes. And it was obvious that someone had sunk some time and effort into the race; each mile marker was a good-sized hand-painted scene from the movie with one of the main four characters -- Dorothy for mile 1, the Scarecrow for mile 2, and so on. With the time obviously spent on painting those great mile markers, I hope the race will be around for a few years to take advantage of them!
We made a turnaround about halfway through the race and headed back towards the school, more than a mile away now. Each out-and-back turnaround had given me a fresh chance to see the costumes, encourage Val and Wendy, and figure out where I was in the field (near the back). We passed back through the water stop, saw some more mile markers, and we passed back by the school on the way to the last out-and-back that would bring us up to the full five-mile distance. Unfortunately for those of us new to Person County, this stretch included a down-and-up on the biggest hill of the course. It was a blessed break on the way down, but already we were thinking about how it would feel when we made the turn and headed back up. Sure enough, it was a tough, tough incline, and fortunately we didn't have much distance left when we finally crested it. I was happy to see the finish line arch ahead of me and jog on through to put that last hill behind me.
They continued the great theming into the post-race celebration. We each got a finisher's medal, and they had labeled the post-race snacks to match the theme -- flying monkey bananas, rainbow candy (Skittles), and the like. Nice touches! There was a good crowd from the Mebane Running Club in addition to those of us representing the NCRC. Val placed second in his age group, and Wendy got recognition for her great Munchkin costume. Overall, they had 147 runners finish the race. They also recognized race beneficiary Person Industries, a non-profit that trains adults with disabilities for work in the private sector. It was a hoot running the Yellow Brick Road 5-miler, and I hope they continue to have great turnout for the race!