Don’t run that first mile too fast. Save it for later — you’ll need it.
That’s my advice to those signed up for the inaugural Big Fun Run 5K race this Saturday at Discovery Place KIDS in downtown Rockingham. Race-day registration begins at 8 a.m., the Little Fun Run 1-miler starts at 9 a.m. and the 5K (3.1-mile) distance begins at 10 a.m.
I ran the 5K course on consecutive days last week, once in each direction. Before seeing a course map, I was prepared for a boring out-and-back offering as is prevalent in many towns and cities — easier on the number of volunteers, turn signs and law enforcement support along the way. Boy was I wrong.
Instead, this single-loop course takes runners from Discovery Place KIDS, at East Washington and North Lawrence streets, down Lawrence to Everette Street for a block, then left on North Randolph Street to Steele Street and the Rockingham access point to the Hitchcock Creek trail. In the first three-quarters of a mile, runners will drop about 148 feet in elevation. The downhill will feel good to many; again, I caution those who want to start off this event like it’s a sprint. It’s not.
The trail section is only about a third of a mile long, give or take — nice and flat, and “the calm before the storm,” i.e., the climb up Love Lane back to the top of the town. Runners will travel up Love Lane and take a left onto Hawthorne Street, following that around L.J. Bell Elementary School to Ann Street, passing Rockingham Middle School, to Scotland Avenue.
Believe it or not, this is almost entirely uphill — gradual, but always noticeable. For me, even the stretch along Ann Street, which has a slight descent, felt as if I was still moving uphill. After turning right onto Scotland, runners will cross Fayetteville Road and then be on Grove Street. This is what I felt to be the first true break of incline.
That break lasts only a block before a right turn onto East Washington Street, and if you’re the type of runner who keeps an eye on the horizon, you’ll note the terrain is, yes, another incline on the return towards downtown. It finally felt absolutely flat where Fayetteville Road and East Washington split.
At that point, runners are only two blocks from the finish line.
I was pleasantly surprised that event officials would concoct a course so challenging, and pleased to know it passed muster with the city (the course was designed by City Planner John Massey), as such an event can’t be staged without the support of city and police leadership. Many overseers of new running events look to draw up a flat-as-possible course so runners can post a PR, or personal record best time at a given distance. This course might not be PR-worthy, but running it this year will give you a goal to train and race for next March.
Through last weekend, the event had 83 registered for the 5K and another 31 for the Little Fun Run 1-miler. My guess that the forecast for Saturday, which as of Tuesday afternoon called for a high of near 69 but a 50 percent chance of rain, could keep some people away.
My other guess is that, once the sun does come out and people take to running the USATF-certified course over the summer and fall, runners will be sorely disappointed they stayed away from this one.
For more information on either distance, log on to
Kevin Spradlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-997-3111 ext. 13.