Last updated: December 10. 2013 3:36PM - 1576 Views
Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

The Ararat River Greenway in Mount Airy is thick with runners during last year's Rosy Cheeks 5K race.
The Ararat River Greenway in Mount Airy is thick with runners during last year's Rosy Cheeks 5K race.
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Hundreds of runners are expected to invade the Ararat River Greenway Saturday morning and similar to Santa Claus, will leave behind a huge stash of toys.

Unlike other 5K races that require a fee, the entry price for the Fifth-Annual Rosy Cheeks 5K, and a separate Kids Jingle Bell half-mile jog, is an unwrapped toy suitable for elementary or middle school youths.

The Rosy Cheeks 5K event, set for Saturday at 9 a.m., has become the largest-attended road race held locally, according to event organizer Darren Lewis of the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation division, and is shaping up to be successful again this year.

“We have a little over 260 pre-registered,” Lewis said Tuesday morning, “and registrations are still coming in each day.” Runners also can sign up on race day beginning at 8 a.m. at Riverside Park where the 5K route begins. Collection boxes for toys typically are set up there.

“We’re expecting over 300 runners for the weekend,” Lewis said. “Usually we have the largest turnout for participants,” he added of the Rosy Cheeks 5k compared to other races locally. It is co-sponsored by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation and the Mount Airy Road Runners running club.

Lewis believes the popularity of the Rosy Cheeks race is due to the spirit of the community spirit in responding to a worthy goal of generating toys for underprivileged children. “That’s why I think we’re having a lot more individuals for this race.”

100 Kids Aided

The items collected will be distributed by the Mount Airy Police Department to area families as part of its annual toy drive.

More than 100 children in both the city and Surry County benefited from the Rosy Cheeks event last year, according to Lewis.

“We collected a lot of toys,” said Lt. Kelly Hiatt of the city police community services unit, who annually helps distribute them along with other officers including Chief Dale Watson. “We get names from the city schools of some of the people that need toys,” Hiatt said of the toys that will be delivered in the week after the race.

The campaign targets kids who otherwise would get little or nothing for Christmas, he said. “So it just helps them out.”

After starting at Riverside Park, the racers will meander along the greenway for 1.5 miles, with a turn indicated in the H.B. Rowe Environmental Park/ballfield area. From that point, participants will return to the finish line at Riverside Park.

Age-group competition categories include 13 and under, 14-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus. The top-three overall finishers and age-group winners will receive special prizes.

Along with the satisfaction of helping others, all finishers of the Rosy Cheeks 5K will receive a candy cane, with kids to get a special reward for their run to begin at 9:45 a.m.

Baked goods and cider will be available to help runners recover after the race, when Santa Claus is scheduled to make a special appearance as well.

“We will run rain or shine,” Lewis said.

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

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