A couple of friends mentioned surprise to find out we were just making it to Wayne County this late in the countdown, given that it's an easy 45-minute drive from home and that they have a couple of well-established races, but sometimes the calendar just works out that way. Plus, it would have been a shame not to have included one of the longest-running road races in the area as part of the countdown, so it was nice that the calendar worked out very well to be a part of the Greater Goldsboro Road Run 10k.
This was the 35th running of the annual race; it's a pedigree that goes back many years. According to our friend Val Price, who is an unofficial historian of many Down East races and was taking part in the 5k event today, the GGRR used to be one of the biggest draws in the eastern half of the state and drew fields in the hundreds with nice prize money back in the day. Now, with a much more crowded race schedule and smaller prizes, the fields may not be as big, but the organizers still work to put on an excellent race for all the participants.
The main race organizing area was right in the middle of historic downtown Goldsboro, right along Center Street, the main drag through town. Packet pickup was set up in First Baptist Church, and a large team from Run for God was organizing to take part in the morning's activities. The race shirts were very nice and original; a very distinctive shade of green with custom artwork showing a runner with Goldsboro in the background. That was a nice touch, seeing something different and out of the ordinary in the race shirts. Also, a large number of volunteers were already setting up in the volunteer area, so it was clear we were going to be very well taken care of in the morning's races. (Maybe Kanye's "Golddigger" wasn't the best choice to include in the morning's music selections.)
Sure enough, it was easy to catch up with Val at the race, and I also got to meet Dexter Johnson from the Mangum Track Club; some other runners from Raleigh had also made the trip out to Goldsboro to take advantage of the area's flat, fast race course. There wasn't going to be a whole lot of elevation change in the race, and with long straightaways and only a few turns, it was going to be a speedy run. A couple of crankchairs were also taking part and got a head-start on the runners. Both the 10k and 5k events (there was also a mile run) started at the same time several blocks apart on Center Street; the 10k course was in effect twice around the 5k course. It did mean that once the 10k runners caught up to the 5k runners, we had to work our way through the walkers, strollers and joggers at the back of the 5k pack until we worked our way into the 5k runners that were hitting about the same pace. That might be one thing to improve for future races; maybe they could cone off that initial quarter-mile or so, with 5k runners on one side of the street and 10k runners on the other side to avoid the crush of runners until we had more or less settled into our running paces.
Once we did get off Center Street and into the surrounding neighborhoods, we really were treated to some pretty spring scenery. The Goldsboro area was running a little bit ahead of Raleigh in terms of spring blooms, so we got to see dogwoods, azaleas and wisteria that were already in full color and just a few days ahead of the blooms back home. Lots of homes were already in full spring color and the owners had their properties looking very spiffy for all the runners. At a few homes, there were families out on the porches to watch the runners go by and to cheer for them as they shuffled past. There was a brief downhill as we made the return to Center Street, and of course there was a corresponding uphill following that turned out to be the only real hill on the course. The 5k runners continued on to the finish line, and the 10k runners made the turn to head back out for another loop.
At least on the second loop, I knew where the mile markers were going to be and where the turns and aid stations were, and I had a pace I was comfortable with, so it was fun just to keep cruising, talking to the runners around me, and tick the miles off. It was a great morning to be running; the temperatures were nice and cool, and there was a good breeze blowing to keep us cool. The miles felt nice and easy. Finally we made the last left-hand turn and we were back on Center Street with the finish line arch in sight. It was great to pick up the pace for the homestretch and hit the finish line as hard as I could, and to my delight I had run my first sub-57:00 10k since my college days! I ended up in a very competitive age group, so there was no award for me, but the finish time was fantastic enough to make the whole morning run a celebration!
Post-run, there was a great supply of food and drink for all the runners, and lots of conversation among all the morning's runners. The Run for God team appeared to have met all their participation goals. There was a large stack of door prizes for all the runners. It was a great morning overall, and the organizers in Goldsboro are still putting on a great race! It's well worth the quick trip out to Wayne County to be a part of this flat, fast spring race!