First-timers test their mettle in Derby 50K

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

November 29, 2013

More than 120 runners from across North Carolina and nine other states are registered for the 11th running of the Derby 50K footrace on the northern outskirts of Richmond County.

The low-key race is set to begin at 8 a.m. today and boasts a start time forecast of 28 degrees. Runners hail from South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, California and Hawaii. It begins and ends at the Derby Community Building, located at 1647 Jones Spring Church Road.

The 31.5-mile event, coordinated by the Mangum Track Club, features a three-loop course of about 10.5 miles each. Race director Mark Long described the terrain as “rolling hills” which as helped to attract 46 first-time ultra runners — more than one-third of the field. Forty-five of the 122 registered runners are MTC members.

“Derby, as far as ultra runs go, is a highly doable course,” Long said. “It’s not very hilly. It’s just a rolling course. It’s not too bad. It’s very conducive to first-time finishers.”

Long said that in the race’s 10-year history, there have been only two or three competitors who have dropped out — total.

Another aspect of the event being a good one for first-time ultra runners is the course support. Nearly a dozen volunteers help staff three aid stations along the route and help runners refill water bottles along with other offerings, including energy drinks, chips and cookies.

Long said there is no cutoff for the event. Last year, the last of 62 finishers crossed the line in 8 hours, 43 minutes and 18 seconds. The winning time was 3:29:03; the top woman finished in 5:06:26.

Time doesn’t matter, though, for this low-key MTC event.

“I’ll be there until the final person comes in,” Long said.

As with many running events, there are two charities associated with this race. Participants are asked to bring dog food or cat food for the Richmond County Animal Advocates, managed by Hamlet resident Allison Sweatt. In addition, veteran ultra runner Drew Coombes will be collected used shoes for One Step Beyond, which helps pair children in New Hanover and Brunswick counties with unwanted or otherwise discarded shoes.

“I applaud both of these people for making the world a better place for children an animals,” Long told Derby 50K followers on the event’s Facebook page.

Every finisher is given a coffee mug with the Derby 50K logo; the top 100 finishers are awarded finisher’s medals. The theory in distance running is that if you can run 10 miles, you can complete a 50K.

“That adrenaline kicks in,” Long said. “Next thing you know, you’ve completed 20 miles” with a single lap to go.