Finally, though, we had to leave the warm cafeteria and go back out into the breeze for the start. One of Rockinham County's Sheriff deputies gave the runners instructions on the route, which side of the roads to run on, and where the other deputies would be stationed for traffic control. The band director did a quick pepping up of the band members -- "who's faster? the woodwinds or the brass" -- and then we were off, while I was thinking to myself, "well actually, it's the percussion!"
The middle and high schools are built side-by-side on a very large tract of land, so by circling the property, we actually covered almost a mile just getting back out to the main road. And most of that first stretch was all uphill, which of course got those young whippersnappers who started sprinting right from the start of the race. Sure enough, the deputies were right where they were supposed to be, keeping traffic on highway 87 stopped for the half-mile or so before we turned onto a secondary road and then into the Rockingham County government complex. We passed the Board of Elections and the Animal Shelter, and then we made a quick loop around the far parking lot before heading back the same way we had some. There was a nice downhill stretch leading to the turnaround, which just meant we had to go back up it on the way out. But the aid station and the water and the encouraging volunteers were much appreciated as we tacked the return trip.
Before too long it seemed we were back entering the school property, and since I knew we had mostly downhill stretches leading back to the start/finish area, I tried to pick up the pace somewhat and take advantage of the downhills. However, a couple of other runners had fresher legs than me and passed me just as we got the finish line area in sight. (The wind had blown down the start/finish arch after we had left, so we had to run to where it used to be.) Quickly we jogged around the parking lot, across the timing mats, and then back into the cafeteria to get out of the wind!
They had a very nice post-race spread of refreshments, including chips, pretzels, fruit and 32-ounce jugs of Gatorade, which was very much appreciated. You have to give credit both to the kids who kept running and finished all three miles, and to the adults who came out and walked on a cold, windy day to support the program. After allowing enough time for all the participants to finish the course, they gave out some very nice trophies as awards for overall winners and age-group winners. I was somewhat surprised but very delighted to win my age group! Find me a small enough race, and I can still win my group!
It was a lot of fun getting to visit Chad's homeland, and he gave me a very good suggestion to stop at Short Sugar's BBQ on the way out for an early lunch. I had a great time running and supporting the Rockingham County Middle School band, and I hope their Band on the Run 5k continues to be such a fun race!