People might go over the river and through the woods later this week for Thanksgiving, but on Saturday 591 runners trekked through Mount Airy for the 10th-annual Mayberry Half-Marathon and related events.
The nearly 600 people who took part overall — in the half-marathon, 10K and 5K segments involved — represented a record turnout for the races staged by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation. Last year’s field previously held that distinction with about 450 runners.
“Just perfect race weather” was partly the reason for that in the view of city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander while she surveyed the crowd assembled downtown for pre-race activities.
As runners competing in the grueling half-marathon (13.1 miles) gathered at the starting line in front of Main Oak Emporium at 8 a.m., temperatures were a bit chilly in the low 40s. But they were aided by sunny skies, a slight southerly breeze and a flat course that is hailed as another reason for the Mayberry half-marathon’s growing popularity.
“It was nice and flat enough to get into a rhythm,” said Kendall Haynes, the top overall winner of the half-marathon, who covered the distance in a time of one hour, 25 minutes and 30 seconds. This year was the second time for the present course to be utilized, which was made possible by the opening of a link for the city’s two greenways in 2016.
That has provided nearly seven continuous miles of greenway distance and in addition to the paved trail system the races included some local streets.
After starting on North Main Street, runners took a left onto Pine Street and then a left onto Riverside Drive to enter Riverside Park and then raced along the greenway and back, finishing at a picnic shelter in the park where onlookers cheered their arrivals. The three races operated under a staggered schedule, with runners advancing to different intervals along the greenway to complete their respective distances.
Haynes said he was aided psychologically during the demanding half-marathon by the presence of the Mount Airy High School Marching Band on the course, along with a number of people gathered along the route to cheer on runners.
“It gives you a little bit of a boost,” said Haynes, 23, a resident of Cana, Virginia, who has been running since he was in the eighth grade.
“I went to Bluefield College to run and now I coach at Bluefield College.”
Haynes was competing in his first half-marathon, which also was the case for its top female finisher, Kylie Spencer of Pleasant Garden, near Greensboro. Spencer, 21, covered the 13.1-mile course in a time of 1:29:54, and was fourth overall in the event.
Orinthal Striggles, 41, of Columbia, South Carolina, was number one overall in the 10K race with a time of 35 minutes, 32 seconds. Lee Bunker, 15, of Mount Airy, took the top spot in the 5K at 19:43.
Age no handicap
“I’m amazed at the over-40 crowd,” Jim Armbrister, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners who emceed the start of the races, said of the field that included folks of all ages. Two men in their 50s were the second- and third-place finishers in the half-marathon.
Dennis Rawls, 66, of Winston-Salem, also helped represent the senior category in that event.
“I feel very blessed that God has given me the body to do this,” said Rawls.
The runner added that he gives thanks after every race. “I do five or six half-marathons a year.”
Rawls, who says he always wears patriotic red-white-and-blue running attire, was participating in the Mayberry event Saturday for the second-straight year.
“I like it,” the Winston-Salem resident said of the course he described as “nice, small, kind of laid-back.”
Proceeds from Saturday’s event, mainly including entry fees paid by runners, will aid programs of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation, although no figure was available at last report.
“It’s a good fundraiser for our city parks and recreation (division),” Armbrister said.
In addition, there is an element to the Mayberry Half-Marathon, 5K and 10K which benefits the community at large, he and Alexander said.
Armbrister had spoken to several out-of-towners here for the races who spent the previous day or so “touring the town.”
It is thought that many are making a complete weekend of the affair. “I’m sure we’ll have some hanging around for a day or two,” Armbrister said, and patronizing local restaurants and other establishments along the way.
“All these things have that ripple effect,” he said of events such as Saturday’s trio of races.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.