Great weather makes for warm Winter Flight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Ryan Woods won Saturday’s Winter Flight in a time of 25:26, covering each mile of the 8-kilometer course in about five minutes.
In layman’s terms, he picked ’em up and put ’em down in a hurry.
On top of that, Woods didn’t even appear to be breathing hard when he’d finished it all.
Which prompted one of the race volunteers to say what the rest of us plodders probably wanted to say.
“When you come across the finish line in that quick of a time,” the woman surmised, “will you please look as if you’ve worn yourself out?”
Woods paused before laughing.
“It’s a nice day for running,” he observed. “I even got a nice sweat going.”
Saturday marked the 26th year of Winter Flight, a race sponsored by members of Salisbury Rowan Runners. The event begins and ends at Catawba College, with participants finishing on the track at Shuford Stadium.
David Freeze, president of Salisbury Rowan Runners, said he remembers years when the temperature at race time was in the low 20s and a biting chill made it seem colder still.
That wasn’t the situation Saturday.
The temperature was in the mid-40s when the race kicked off at 10 a.m. It was sunny and almost balmy by the time the crux of the runners had finished 45 minutes later.
“This is about as good as it gets right here,” Freeze said. “It’s a beautiful day, we couldn’t do better.”
Freeze said 259 runners participated in Winter Flight and another 13 competed in the half-mile Fun Run that preceded the main event.
Woods, the Winter Flight winner, is 29 and a resident of Boone. He said he ran track at N.C. State, specializing in 5-kilometer (that’s 3.1 miles for those of you who dozed through your classes on the metric system) races.
Woods’ fastest time for a 5-k race was 13:50.
Following college graduation, Woods ran two years for a professional race team in California. Nowadays, he does most of his training in the hills of beautiful Watauga County.
Woods said Saturday marked the first time he’d run Winter Flight. He said he was impressed with the job that volunteers from Salisbury Rowan Runners and Rowan Helping Ministries did in preparing for the race.
Rowan Helping Ministries, a nonprofit that aids the economically disadvantaged, is the organization that receives proceeds from this year’s Winter Flight.
Bobby Aswell, a 46-year-old resident of Cornelius, finished Saturday’s race in 31:40. He said he thought his time landed him the top spot in his age group.
More remarkable, Aswell ran the race while pushing his 4-year-old daughter, Natalie, in a three wheeled contraption called a “baby jogger.”
“I thought it was perfect,” Aswell said of the race. “I finished a little faster than I thought I would.”
Aswell’s 7-year-old daughter, Nicole, competed in the Fun Run. Aswell said Nicole already runs 5-kilometer races, but said an 8-k is a tad outside her limits.
Aswell said he has competed in Winter Flight a number of times.
“It’s one of my favorite races,” he said. “They do a really nice job.”
Salisbury’s Rob Holmes, 49, said much the same. He said Saturday marked at least the sixth time he’s run Winter Flight, and said the race always lives up to his expectations.
But Saturday’s race, Holmes said, wasn’t quite perfect.
He mentioned a dead skunk stretched out along Jake Alexander Boulevard near the entrance to The Crescent as something of an obstacle to runners.
“You see him, then you smell him after you’d passed,” Holmes said. “It made you pick up your pace.”