Monday, October 14, 2013

McDowell County - Mountain Glory Challenge 10k - October 12, 2013

Festivals and fairs in small towns have been a great boon to our county countdown, as many of them have incorporated running events like 5Ks and 10Ks into their festivities to draw more attendees and increase the number of events. The Mountain Glory Festival in Marion, NC added a 5k/10k event to their schedule, which enabled me and my girlfriend Kathy to take part in a beautiful mountain race in McDowell County!

McDowell County and Marion are in the North Carolina mountains, so we knew we were going to be in for some elevation changes in this race.  Fortunately, it was a mostly out-and-back race, so any hills we had to climb on the way out would be a wonderful downhill on the return.  (Yes, and versa vice.) 

Even with the backing of the Mountain Glory festival, however, there was not a big turnout for the 10k version of the race.  From my headcount, it appeared that only eleven runners were there for the big event, with just under 100 signed up for the accompanying 5k race.  No matter how many runners were signed up, though, the volunteers race morning at the McDowell County Department of Recreation building had set up a very efficient packet pickup and registration process in the building's gymnasium.  (We were just a couple of blocks off the main drag through town, where the festival vendors were setting up tents.)  They were very happy to have all participants there for the race, no matter how far they were running.  We got some very nice long-sleeve cotton shirts and a nice drawstring bag in which to carry all our race goodies. 

The 10k runners had to walk a little bit farther down the road, about a tenth of a mile, to reach our starting line; the 5k runners lined up just down from the Recreation Department building for the en masse start.  That stagger was used to correct for distances since all the runners were using the same outbound road but would have different turnaround points. 

The race start was, of course, uphill, but not punishingly so.  We were able to see a good bit ahead along the road, even as the faster 5k participants passed us.  It was a great morning to be running; not too hot and just enough overcast in the skies to keep the sun from cooking us in the non-shady parts of the race.  We were headed east out of Marion on Old Highway 10, crossing over Highway 221 and then finally down a nice, long downhill that enabled us to enjoy the scenery a little bit more.  Once out of town, there were many more open fields and farms separating the houses, but we had plenty of law enforcement on the roads to control traffic and volunteers at the water stops, so we never felt like we were alone, even after we had passed the 5k turnaround and only the 10k runners remained on the road.

Our turnaround point was just about the lowest point on the course, so we knew the trip back was going to have some major uphill to it.  Fortunately, we were able to kick it into a lower gear and keep moving along.  We were able to see all the 10k runners in front and behind us, and quickly figured out that there was only one fellow bringing up the rear, and we were running close enough that we could have some conversation about the run.  The fourth and fifth miles were our slowest as we pulled up out of the valley and got closer to town.  Even the fellow trailing us got slowed down by the hills and dropped back.  But once we had reached the top of the ridge, we knew that the majority of the last mile back into town would be downhill, and we were ready to take advantage of it, picking up speed and hopefully making sure we weren't the last finishers of the race.  That made our final mile the fastest of the race, insuring we finished in good form in just under an hour -- and neither of us was the last runner to make the last turn by the Recreation Building and cross the finish line.

Post-race, there were plenty of refreshments for all the morning's runners, and they had trophies for all the top finishers in each age group, plus door prizes!  Much to our mutual surprise, Kathy and I each had been the top finishers in our age groups, so we took home first-place trophies -- along with some nice door prizes for lunch at a local Marion BBQ joint and also at a popular chain!  What a haul!  We really had a great time at the Mountain Glory Challenge 10k, and we definitely need to return to see if we can defend our titles!

No comments: