Monday, April 8, 2013

Anson County - Five-Alarm 5k - April 6, 2013

Hey, folks!  Yep, we're still here, even though there hasn't been a lot of posting going on since our last outing in September.  We didn't travel as much the rest of the fall, and a couple of races we were planning for fell through, and then we had to wait for the calendar to bring some new county opportunities to us -- but we are looking forward to hitting some new parts of the state this year and getting further into the countdown!

Anson County was the first new stop of the year.  I had been worried about us getting to Anson County because a couple of races I knew about there had fallen through, so it was a great delight to read about the new Five-Alarm 5k being planned at the fire department in Ansonville; they hope to have it be an annual event, plus it gives us a great destination to a county we haven't visited before! 

The idea for the Five-Alarm 5k came about as part of a fundraiser to help raise money that will allow the Ansonville Fire and Rescue Department to purchase fitness equipment for the firefighters to use in keeping in shape to handle emergenies in the Anson County area.  In addition, the firefighters were encouraged to take part themselves and use the race as a target event for their own fitness training.  Courtney Sikes, one of the firefighters on staff, was heading up the effort and definitely the person in charge on race day.  She was ably assisted by Peter Ascuitto, Stanly County commissioner, owner of Vac n' Dash (the best combination vacuum store, running store, and UPS shipping location in North Carolina) and the creator behind some great running events in the area.  Upon arriving and parking at the nearby Ansonville Elementary School (home of the Panthers), we had no trouble getting through packet pickup in the spacious fire hall assembly room.  Lots of helpful volunteers got us our packets, numbers and t-shirts, and there was a very good crowd assembling as the morning's weather was really nice and encouraged a good walk-up registration. 

It was still kind of cool the first Saturday of April, so I still had my gloves and good toboggan on when they pulled a fire engine out to block US highway 52 and had us line up in the street ready to start.  There was an excellent crowd of about 100 runners and walkers, including two firemen wearing full gear including boots, helmets (with liners) and oxygen tanks.  They pulled the engine horn to start us, and soon we were headed south on highway 52 past some surprised drivers and truckers who had stopped for the race start.  After about a half-mile on 52 we made a right turn onto a more country road that we had to ourselves and navigated a bunch of turns with the help of excellent course monitors that made sure we didn't get lost.  A few folks were out in the morning air, and some of them were kind of surprised to see a bunch of runners and walkers coming through this Saturday morning.

The course was laid out like a big figure eight, so about the halfway point we passed behind the fire station and onto the north loop of the course.  Some volunteers had a nice water stop set up for us, and the course monitors knew some of the local runners and would encourage them along or joke with them like they were going to send them off-course rather than pointing out a turn.  The morning air felt great and I was running pretty well, although the last hill we traversed on the way back to highway 52 slowed me down a good bit; obviously I haven't broken my habit of taking off too quickly in the start of a race. 

We had one more hill to crest on highway 52, but then we could see all the way to the finish line area.  We made a left turn onto an access road and completed a quick loop around the Ansonville Church of God and then across the big chalked "FINISH" line in the parking lot.  That loop was blessedly downhill, and there was a good crowd of spectators lined up to cheer each runner as they came into view and passed by them to the finish line.  It felt like a very fast, very welcoming finish, and I'm sure most of the runners, like me, picked up the pace thanks to the encouragement and downhill.  The race timers from Vac n' Dash got us our finish cards which we handed in to the timing team, and the results were ready to go just about the time the final runners and walkers crossed the finish line. 

The firemen in full gear did a great job completing the course and received the biggest ovation from the spectators.  A team from Run for God was present and had a good number of participants in the crowd, too.  They set up a nice display about the fire station with giveaways for the kids, and one volunteer was ready with lots of post-race bottled water, fruit, and granola bars for some famished 5Kers.  The overall mens and womens winners took home kettlebells with the race logo -- a very creative alternative trophy for a nice race.  Surprisingly, I ran well enough to get a second-place finish in my age group and a very nice silver medal embossed with the race logo!

They got the inaugural Five-Alarm 5k off to a great start, and hopefully more folks will come from around the area to help fund the fitness improvements to the Ansonville Fire and Rescue Department.  I certainly had a great time with my morning in Anson County, and hopefully it will become a bigger event when it returns next year.  Thanks for adding another running event to the area, and thanks for having us!

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