Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stokes County - King of the Hill 5k - September 15, 2012

 With our different schedules to work around and all the things that can pop up when you're trying to figure out a running schedule, it's a nice bonus when we get to run a race together.  We were finally able to do that for the first time since April when we headed west to Stokes County and the city of King for the King of the Hill 5k.

The Stokes County YMCA has been holding the King of the Hill 5k for many years now, so we knew it was going to make it into the countdown -- we just had to find a year where we could fit it on the schedule with no conflicts.  It was a nice treat that both of us were able to include it, but it was kind of a surprise when we both ended up dressed alike; fortunately, we can always claim to be brothers on the same running team.

Stokes County YMCA has the organization of the race down after many years -- there was no trouble finding the place, getting parked, or picking up our race packets.  And we arrived early enough to watch some of the activity as the kids warmed up for the one-mile fun run.  Chad and I will probably always be able to remember the melody and lyrics from the "Clap Your Hands!  Stomp Your Feet!" song that the kids were using to get all limbered up!  And it was fun to see their excitement and relief when they finished the one-mile out-and-back and got their rewards for getting out and moving.  And there was plenty of pre-race food and drink organized by the YMCA for all the runners, too.

Finally they were ready to start the 5k, so they moved a King fire engine out to block the main road from any unwary drivers and then they walked us down the road to where the starting line had been marked on the road.  You could see a good ways down the road, and we were going to get a nice, downhill start for the first half-mile or so, but then you could see a hill looming ahead before the road curved out of our sight.  It was great running weather in the morning, with lower-than-usual humidity and lots of sunshine.  After a few last-minute directions from the race organizer, we were off at a fast clip down the hill. 

Sure enough, the hill got to us quickly, but around the curve we got another brief downhill and then the elevation leveled out for most of the rest of the first mile.  There was a good crowd taking part, and it was a very good mix of speedsters up front, more recreational runners, and then the plodders like me safe in the back of the pack.  And there were also some folks who were walking the event just for their own activity and exercise.  Just a great morning to be outside running, and they were rewarded with a very good turnout for the race.

The first turn off the main drag took us into a more residential area, where there were some pretty homes and some very well-maintained lawns with fall flowers and decorations making them ready for the season.  The residents must be accustomed to this regular fall race, because several of them sat on their front porch waving at the runners, and more than a few stood along the ends of their driveways so they could cheer us on more directly.  The elevation stayed pretty level with only a few minor rises, and just as we reached the halfway point, there was a much-appreciated aid station and a few more turns down hills that were also appreciated!

Of course, he who runs down must also run up, and as we got into the final mile of the race, we encountered some of the hills that would bring us back to the main drag and the stretch back to the YMCA.  Not surprisingly, as we got into the hills, it became apparent that the temperatures had gotten much higher, so we really felt like it was tougher going as we headed back to the high point of the course.  There were still some residents out cheering for the runners, so that helped keep us going.  As we turned back onto the main drag, there was a wonderful, but short, downhill and then we had the final trek back up the hill we started on to bring us into the YMCA parking lot for the race finish.  That hill looked bad as we approached it, but I guess I got a second wind from knowing the finish line was just ahead and I kept my momentum up all the way back up to the finish and across the line.  Chad was just a few seconds behind me.

The YMCA had set up a very nice post-race spread in their gymnasium with plenty of water, sports drink, and munchies to put some calories back in the runners.  Since it was such a nice morning outside, we got some fruit and bagels and headed back outside to watch some other runners finish and make a few more pictures.  Neither of us had been in this part of Stokes County before, so there was some discussion of how you were just starting to see the foothills as you moved into the more mountainous side of the state.  Neither of us won any awards, but we had a great time in King and hope to get to visit again in our travels.  Thanks for showing us a great time at the King of the Hill 5k!

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