Before we started the countdown, I don't believe Chad or I had ever been up to the northeast corner of North Carolina. However, we've learned that the counties up along Virginia and the Albemarle Sound are some of the prettiest and most friendly that we've seen. The Peanut Run 5k in Chowan County a few years ago was a lot of fun, the Veterans Day 6k XC run in Perquimans County was very scenic, and we were hoping that the story would be the same as we headed for Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County for the Albemarle Hospice Regatta 5k.
Pasquotank County hosts this day-long series of events to benefit Hospice and to raise awareness about hospice needs. The 5k is only the first event of the day; in the afternoon, a regatta is held on the Pasquotank River involving non-spinnaker and cruising class sailors -- yep, we don't know what that means, either -- followed by awards, a dinner, and music in the evening. For folks who live along the river and are out sailing on the water very often, it's a great pair of events to get lots of involvement and bring a lot of benefit to the Hospice organization.
Pre-race setup for the 5k was at the boat ramp in the Newbegun Landing subdivision, just down the river from the main city, Elizabeth City State University (home of the Vikings), and the Coast Guard / Navy base. The river looked big and calm in the morning, and there were already a good number of boats, both recreational and commercial, going back and forth. In spite of the great location, the heat and humidity had jumped up early, and it was easy to tell it was going to be another sweaty, hot run. But packet pickup couldn't have been easier, and the 5k shirts had some beautiful original artwork on the back of boats that made it an instant keeper. One of the more interesting items in the area was the huge blimp hangar across a couple of fields; one of the volunteers told me it was originally for Navy blimps but that now it was owned by a defense contractor working on stealth blimps, and when they opened the end of the hangar for test flights, the building looked like a big spaceship opening up. You could really appreciate the size of the building when you could see people walking along outdoor walkways way up on top of the building (later some of them were repelling down the side of the building, maybe doing some repairs to the outside of the structure).
The race organizers got us lined up and started very quickly. The race course was through the Newbegun Landing subdivision, so we had some nice stretches of shade, but there were also some areas where the sun beat down on us pretty well. Still, everyone was having a good time, and there was lots of talking and encouragement among the runners as we headed out. The residents of the subdivision had plenty of experience with the race -- this was at least the 3rd running -- and many of them were out to cheer on the runners. I saw several folks who had walked out to the street or had set up chairs from which to see the activity, and in one case there was a father sitting on the porch with his toddler, teaching her how to clap for those funny people running by. And some of the runners knew the people in the area, so they were exchanging greetings as we rolled by.
Fortunately the course was very, very flat; hills would have been awfully mean tacked onto the morning's heat and humidity. But the homes were beautiful, and many of them had yards that had been lovingly maintained and dressed up for the season. And as we negotiated the turns and streets of the subdivision, there were three guys who had set up hoses and sprinklers to help the runners cool off as they went by. "Thank you for coming!" one guy hollered as I ran by -- wouldn't it be nice to get that kind of appreciation in every race? I certainly won't forget it. The last few turns came around, we passed back by the blimp hangar, and then the finish line appeared and it was good to cross over it and get into the shade!
Post-run there was plenty of food and drink as we all huddled in the little bit of shade to cool off from the run. Two Navy guys had come down from the base and were among the top finishers of the race. Most impressively, they had the awards compiled and ready to go only a few minutes after the last finishers had crossed the line -- only about fifty minutes after the start of the race! Surprisingly, I got a third-place award, a very nice medal; the overall winners received excellent steins with the race logo on them. Overall, it was a very nice event, and I hope to be able to come up into the state's northeast corner again soon; hopefully to be able to spend time out on the river on one of those regatta boats! Congrats on a really nice race!