With my dad in tow as my support crew, we rolled into Yanceyville well ahead of the race and had time to register and get a nice t-shirt. One organizer said they had been having 50-60 runners and walkers each year so far, and the crowd that was assembling appeared to be about the same size. It had rained earlier in the morning, and as we were waiting for the festivities to begin, another brief shower came through that sent everyone scurrying for the tents or for cars to get out of the rain. Fortunately, though, it didn't scare anyone away, and after it passed folks returned to the parking lot and the pre-run water station. The first event of the day was the kids' one-mile run, and sure enough, a brother and sister turned out to run the last mile of the 5k course. The race director jogged along with them, and they all received a big hand from the other runners as they finished the route.
Once the race director had caught his breath, he introduced the EMS staffer who had been the recipient of the inaugural race proceeds a couple of years earier -- she was walking this year -- and then there was an invocation and the playing of the national anthem. Once we had received a quick description of the course, we were ushered out onto Fire Tower Road (in the shadow of the actual fire tower) and sent on our way! Caswell County's finest blocked traffic on Fire Tower Road, and we ran about a quarter-mile down the road and into the entranceway for the Caswell Senior Center before turning into a very nice trail system that was likely set up to give the seniors an opportunity to walk in nature whenever they wanted.
The trail system was very well cleared and defined, and the race organizers had gone ahead and marked any potential trip hazards with pink paint -- in a few places, the race director joked, it looked like the Pink Panther had exploded. The trail surface was mostly dirt with roots interlaced and only a few rocky obstructions. I'm sure the turtle in the middle of the trail about the three-quarter-mile mark was very surprised that its morning stroll was being interrupted by all the activity! The elevation changes weren't severe, but there were lots of little uphills and downhills throughout the course. About a mile into the race, we entered a small clearing where the race route had been defined by mowing and by little flags, and we made three or four crossings across the clearing before entering more of the trail system. After more twists and turns through the woods, we were back on the trails entering the system, and then we returned to Fire Tower road outside the senior center and headed back to the start/finish area. The music was still playing, and the race organizers and many spectators, including Dad, were watching and encouraging all the participants. I came by in about ninth position, but the two runners ahead of me were reachable.
However, we still had a mile to run, and just like the kids earlier, we continued on to the last mile of the race route. We continued down to another trail system entrance, ran through its parking area, and into a wholly different set of trails. Like the first system, these trails were mostly dirt and roots, but they had also been marked for tripping hazards. This trail network was much more twisty and turny, and there were some loops incorporated into the route, but the organizers had staffed the more complex trail intersections with volunteers to make sure no one went the wrong way. I was able to catch both of the runners I could see ahead of me, but I could hear one of them picking up ground on the downhills, but falling back behind on the uphills. Fortunately, when we finished the last trail section and were on the road to the finish line, it was all uphill and I had more left than him, so I finished in a solid seventh position overall, just under the 31-minute mark.
Surprisingly, that was good enough for third in my age group, which delighted me and Dad to no end. It really felt like a good run after so many average outings I had had in the previous few weeks. The manicured trail was so nice to run on and gave my legs some rest from the beating they had taken on the roads, and the small nature of the event was very enjoyable. I'll be back to run in Caswell County again!