Yep, we're still here and still getting around to new counties! Chad beat me to Moore County, nearby home of Pinehurst, several years ago, but if I'm going to see every county, I have to visit it, too. The great draw was the Fairway 5k, a race run on the cart path of the #1 course at the famed Pinehurst Resort. The race was the kickoff event of the Pinehurst Concours car show, which brings lots of elegant, rare cars to the resort property. Each entrant in the Fairway 5k received a ticket to the car show and the evening's concert, so the opportunity to run on one of the well-known courses, get entrance to the car show, and hear some great country music was a deal too good to miss!
Because of all the hoopla, the event had an earlier-than-usual start time of 7:00 a.m., so we had to get all three of us up and on the road very early. But it was well worth it to be ahead of most of the Saturday traffic and to have some very nice early May cool temperatures to greet us when we got on the resort! Parking for the race was on the infield of the horse track, and from there it was a very short walk over to the packet pickup set up at the halfway house of the #1 course, between the 4th green and the 5th tee.
A very good crowd was assembling for the race -- the results listed 105 finishers -- and more than one family besides ours was out to take part together. The packet pickup was very organized, and runners had access to the bathrooms at the halfway house. The t-shirts were very basic black on white. The start/finish arch was set up alongside the house on the cart path, and the helpful race director gave us instructions about how the route proceeded. We would not be following the cart path around the whole 18 holes (that would be closer to a 10k) but instead making some turns where the paths intersected. Actually, the course was very, very well marked, so it was not hard understanding where the turns were, and it was an easy route to follow.
The race began right on time with the runners spreading out as we followed the cart path back along the 4th hole and continued along past most of the early holes. I had stroller duty for the first part of the race, and fortunately for me it was the flatter part of the course, and from our spot safe in the back of the pack, we could easily see the lead runners streaming out ahead of us over several holes of the course. The route itself was not entirely paved; the main traffic areas had concrete, but like many of the courses at Pinehurst, there are significant areas where the cart paths are not paved, allowing for easier maintenance and a back-to-nature effect at a very modern resort.
We made a couple of turns before we got to the main Pinehurst clubhouse (thus we didn't see where the cars were set up from the race course), and were then on the "back nine" of the #1 course. The elevation changes were much more pronounced in the second half of the race, and more than once we could see runners ahead of us who had completed switchbacks and were at a higher elevation than us. (It was also the half of the race where the boy got a little fussy in his stroller.) There were some Pinehurst residents out in the morning, and more than a few were out specifically to watch the runners go by (running isn't normally allowed on the courses). Of course, the homes along the course were very impressive and nearly all had a pretty back porch or deck overlooking the course. We also noted that many of them had some variation of the Pinehurst Putterboy statue facing the course.
The last few hills in the final mile were very challenging, with or without a stroller. We swapped stroller duties back and forth a few times and even took a walk break or two, but we could see the finish line arch ahead of us and finished with a good pace. Our first mile pace was definitely the fastest, taking advantage of the flatness and even some downhills, with the second two miles the slowest ones. But we were greeted back at the finish line with water and fruit, and even the boy got his first running medal for finishing the 5k, albeit in a stroller!
Nicole Esplin, a talented runner and Elon graduate who I know from the Raleigh running scene, was the overall winner, beating everyone around the loop with the only sub-20:00 time. The overall winners got great little Putterboy statues, and the other age group winners received medals. There was a brief sprinkle after the race, but it did not dampen enthusiasm or chase too many people away. It was a wonderful early morning in Pinehurst, and it was great to mix the loves of family, running, golf, elegant cars, and music! We'll definitely be back "fore" another race in Moore County!