Last updated: August 17. 2013 10:14PM - 3628 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Part of the field of 144 runners make their way down Cherry Street at the start of Saturday's Downtown Rocks and Runs 5K race.
Part of the field of 144 runners make their way down Cherry Street at the start of Saturday's Downtown Rocks and Runs 5K race.
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Rain might stop some athletes, such as baseball players or auto racers, but not runners — who unlike those others actually prefer the cool wet stuff to a blazing sun.

With that in mind, 144 runners came out Saturday evening for the sixth annual Downtown Rocks and Runs, fueled by the spirit of competition and a desire to help those in need. Downtown Rocks and Runs is the kickoff event for the annual campaign of the United Fund of Surry.

“It’s just something fun, but obviously, doing something to help (others) just makes you run that much faster and enjoy it that much more,” said Will Campbell of Mount Airy, who came in first in the “Runs” portion of the event, a 5K race.

Campbell, a student at Asheville School, won the race for the second year in a row with a time of 18 minutes, 7 seconds. The course began at the upper end of Cherry Street near the Municipal Building, took in the Ararat River Greenway and looped back to North Main Street to the finish line at City Hall.

While Campbell ended the race nearly out of breath, but smiling, another happy person at the event was Beth Pequeno, executive director of the United Fund. It provides needed financial support to 26 community agencies ranging from the local American Red Cross unit to Yokefellow Ministry.

Along with runner registration fees, tickets were sold for a concert and money also was raised through concession and other sales.

Downtown Rocks and Runs generated about $10,000 last year, when drier conditions prevailed. “I’m not sure we’re going to make it this year,” Pequeno said of that mark, yet she was still pleased with Saturday’s turnout, especially the number of runners.

Those competing in the 5K for trophies and $500 in cash through a special drawing seemed oblivious to the weather, even as heavy precipitation fell just before the race started.

“Runners will run in rain, so they’re excited,” Pequeno said.

Campbell said his strategy for victory was “getting out early. I did pretty well last year, so I just tried to get out and get going early.” That was manifested in a time of 5:13 for his first mile of the 3.1-mile race.

Melissa Wall, 28, of Ararat, Va., the top female finisher with a time of 23:19 — good for 16th overall — put her showing into perspective. “I usually push a double-stroller,” Wall said of the conveyance used for her small children. “So I guess you could say it is easy.”

Others also were glad for the opportunity to aid a worthy cause.

“Every 5K that I run is a fundraiser for somebody,” said veteran racer Candace Dollyhigh, 22, of Mount Airy. “It definitely gets me motivated to know that the money is going to help somebody.”

Hope Southern, 28, of Mount Airy, ran with her husband Nathaniel and a group of her fellow teachers from Blue Ridge Elementary School in Ararat, Va. “So we like to do this as a team,” she said.

In addition to Virginia representation, the event boasted an international field with the presence of Irmina Reithmair, who is visiting from Germany.

After the race, many strolled from the finish line to Blackmon Amphitheatre where the band 80’z Enuff performed for the “Rocks” part of Saturday’s gathering, sponsored by BB&T, and where food and beverages were available.

Along with the effort and sweat on the part of runners, Pequeno credited sponsors for making Downtown Rocks and Runs possible. The event was chaired by Allison Poteat.

Reeves Community Center staff members handled race-related tasks.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.com.

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