Runners, bikers hit the streets in Kannapolis Saturday
By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS - Runners and cyclists descend on Kannapolis Saturday for the second annual Rotary Nutrithon, a morning of athletic events with family activities and fun.
The start/finish line at the North Carolina Research Campus will be the focal point for the morning's three athletic events, kids' bicycle safety rodeo and vendor fair.
Starting at 7:45 a.m., runners will compete simultaneously in two foot races, a 5K and an 8K, with separate courses through downtown Kannapolis streets and nearby neighborhoods.
At 9 a.m., competitors will begin the duathlon - a combination event that starts with a 5K run, followed by a 25K bicycle race through the countryside west of town, ending with a final 3K run in the city.
"We have about 120 preregistered for the duathlon, and we have probably around 70 to 80 registered for the running events," said Neal Boyd of Charlotte Sports Cycling, handling logistics for the event.
The weather is expected to be hot, with a chance of showers in the afternoon, but Boyd said that shouldn't impact the racers.
The biggest concern on Boyd's mind is safety.
Organizers are encouraging fans to come downtown and cheer on the competitors, but parking on the NCRC grounds will be limited.
Drivers are being asked to avoid sections of Ridge Avenue and Main Street between Loop Road and Dale Earnhardt Boulevard between 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.
Those portions of the road are being used for the foot races and the running phase of the duathlon.
And drivers should avoid NC-3, Mooresville Road, between Loop Road and Alexander Road between 9:30 and 11 a.m., when that road will be filled with cyclists.
West C Street will also be part of the nearly 16-mile bicycle course, which also includes Unity Church Road and Enochville Avenue.
"The most important thing I would tell people is, if you can avoid the area, please do," Boyd said. "And please be patient, because there will be delays in some areas."
Motorists are especially asked to use patience and caution if they come upon runners or cyclists while driving.
"(Competitors) are in race mode, they're kind of head down, going hard," Boyd said.
Volunteers from the Kannapolis Rotary Club, hosting the event, as well as A.L. Brown High School and other civic groups will be out on the course to direct traffic and assist racers.
Kannapolis Police officers and sheriff's deputies will also be patrolling the course to control traffic and assist racers as needed.
Starting this afternoon, volunteers will place signs along the courses to direct participants.
Residents along the route are being asked not to disturb these signs, which will be removed early Saturday afternoon.
Last year, a volunteer with Kannapolis Rotary was injured trying to replace a route sign that had been taken down overnight.
For visitors, the Nutrithon provides a challenge for pros and novices alike, Boyd said.
"There's the fact that it's more than one sport rolled up into one event. You have to be somewhat proficient at both," he said.
William "Whit" Whitley, event chairperson for the Kannapolis Rotary Club, said residents are encouraged to come out and cheer for visiting athletes.
"This is a major sports event for the city of Kannapolis as we look to the future," Whitley said.
Just as people have rallied around Kannapolis' minor league baseball team, the Intimidators, Whitley said he hopes the running and cycling competitions will inspire residents.
"You know, last year's Nutrithon, we had many people cheering at the finish line for people who passed through. It's a great confidence-builder for novices as well as professionals."
Plus, there will be fun activities and vendors on hand.
The Pilot Club of Kannapolis is hosting a children's bicycle safety rodeo near the UNC-Chapel Hill building, starting around 10 a.m.
There will also be a bounce house for kids to enjoy.
But the morning's main purpose is to raise funds for student and visiting researcher housing at the N.C. Research Campus.
Although several universities and the David H. Murdock Core Lab draw students and researchers from across the state and the world, there is currently no guest house or dormitory for them.
Whitley said this puts a burden on those students. "They're already paying large loans from their education, and traveling in here with the bare necessities."Some lack cars, while most are also paying rent or mortgage payments at home or school, in addition to the cost of traveling to use the laboratory facilities.
"They can't just go and stay at a motel constantly, because they don't have that kind of money. And apartment communities won't rent on a short-term basis."
Through the Nutrithon, the Kannapolis Rotary Club is raising money to provide ongoing short-term housing for these students and researchers.
One possibility is the construction of a residence hall, or the renovation of a house near the NCRC.
Whitley said this year's goal is to raise in excess of $30,000 for that effort. "We're probably already there, or close," Whitley said, although he did not have an updated total at press time.
Beyond the fundraising, there's the idea that fitness and health are values the community will hopefully embrace.
He mentioned the fact that North Carolina lags behind other states in terms of obesity, which leads to other health consequences.
"This is a good start to changing those statistics down the road," Whitley said. "Good nutrition builds good health and good performance, and that's a lesson we could all learn."
Online preregistration has closed, but in-person registration for all events continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at Right Gear, 808 N. Church St., Concord.
Saturday, packet pickup for participants begins at 6:45 a.m. and runners can register on-site for the 5K and 8K until just before the start time.
There will be no on-site registration for the duathlon.
For more information, visit www.nutrithon.com.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.