Saturday, April 18, 2015

Madison County - Fiddlin' 5k - April 11, 2015

Believe it or not, we did have plans to be further along in the countdown this year.  We went through a bitterly cold winter that squashed plans for a couple of trips to new counties that we had in mind and decreased our running mileage overall.  But we hope that the rest of 2015 will be a good chance to go to some new places!  
There is a reason Mars Hill University in Madison County, north of Asheville, NC, is not called Mars “Flat” University.  It’s a very hilly area, right in the middle of the North Carolina mountains, and races in the area will have plenty of elevation change to them.  We found that out when we arrived to take part in the Fiddlin’ 5k, a small local race that benefits the Bascom Lamar Lunsford “Minstrel of Appalachia” Festival and the Junior Appalachian Musicians, a local program through the Madison County Arts Council that teaches mountain traditions through music and dance education.  
The center of the university’s upper quad was the home of all the race organization, from check-in and packet pick-up to the start/finish line, post-race food, and live bluegrass entertainment both before and after the run.  We had no trouble getting checked in, and the t-shirts, with a big fiddle logo, were an immediate hit with both of us.  We had plenty of time to look around and explore part of the campus before the race began.

Almost 100 runners joined us at the starting line, and we all charged out on to the main street of Mars Hill (named Main Street, naturally), an uphill (of course) as we headed out of town, finally making a turn onto a nice downhill that followed Gabriel Creek and some farms for a little while.  At one point we had a field full of cows lowing for us!  

A great feature of the Fiddlin’ 5k is that live bluegrass is played along the course for the runners; a pair of musicians played for us just about the one-mile mark, and at the halfway water stop (at the top of the biggest hill on the course) there was another tent with live music being played.  We passed by Mars Hill Elementary School (home of the Wildcats) on the way back into town, and a couple of turns later, we were headed back onto the university campus.  There were two more large groups of musicians playing for us as we wound the last half-mile through campus, and after one last hill, we were back on the main quad, where the live music had been playing at the start/finish line all during the race.  A quick sprint across the quad, and we were done!  It wasn’t our fastest run, for sure, but we enjoyed the beautiful course and all the music along the route.
Post-race, there was plenty of food and some excellent coffee for the runners.  Madison County had provided plenty of maps and brochures about the area’s hiking and biking trails (the Appalachian Trail goes through), and the excellent bluegrass group played on until the awards were ready.  We were both surprised to find out we had each placed third in our respective age groups, entitling us to some wonderful pottery medals!  The overall male and female winners got pottery mugs with the race logo and a fiddle-shaped cutting board.

We had a great time running up and down the lovely hills of the Mars Hill area!  The weather was very pleasant and cool in the morning, with the blooms running about a week behind where Raleigh was.  But it was a wonderful trip and a very well-organized race!  The shirts will be favorites of ours for a long time! Thanks for a great time in Madison County!

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