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Lessons from the Bare Bones 5K

On Saturday, we had the 10th Annual Bare Bones 5K at Knox Middle School.
I’m talking about this race in my column because there is something really special about the event. Ten years ago, the race started as a low-key way to thank other runners in our area for participating in Salisbury Rowan Runners events throughout the year.
In that first year, there was a cheap cotton T-shirt, economy medals for the winners, and a course around Catawba College’s soccer and football practice fields. There was water and bananas, and not much else for food afterwards.
The event didn’t make money, though it was not meant to. No outside sponsors were solicited, but good friends like Cheerwine and Athlete’s Foot (now Sportrax) chipped in with food and race numbers, and Catawba provided the location.
The shirt signified the low cost, bare bones approach with a skeleton logo. More than 40 runners attended.
Charlotte runner, Bobby Aswell, reminded me how much things have changed on Saturday. Aswell and his daughter, Nicole, came to Salisbury to run the 5K, though there were other choices in the area. Aswell is an accomplished runner, having run more than 150 marathons. He is 48 years old and his daughter is 9. The Aswells finished first in their age groups.
On Saturday, the Bare Bones skeleton logo was still in place, but it was on a high-tech, dri-fit shirt.
There are still no monetary sponsors, but the race friends include Cheerwine, Sportrax, and Knox Middle School where the race is now held. Most of the race is run on the Salisbury Greenway, in Eagle Heights, and near Knox.
Used running shoes are collected for Rowan Helping Ministries, and through intense fiscal management the race makes some money. Relay for Life with an emphasis on Breast Cancer Awareness was the recipient of all proceeds this year, and that contribution is significant.
Additionally, 40 new runners had just completed two Beginning Runners Classes, one in Salisbury through Parks and Rec and another in Landis at First Reformed Church. As a part of their program, each of these runners got to run in the Bare Bones 5K, which was the very first race for most. They have a good start on an exercise program.
Leftover awards from other races are recycled and replated for Bare Bones with the help of Creative Graphics of China Grove.
Knox Middle School provides a headquarters location that includes a race finish on their track. The Salisbury Post helps publicize the event.
The Salisbury Police and Fire Departments provide course support. A half-mile fun run for children under 12 is run completely on the track, so spectators can see the whole event. This year, there were spectators at several points along the course, including the start and the finish.
Special significance for the 2011 Bare Bones 5K centered around two key points.
Great management is the key to success, and Race Director David Abernathy has become legendary in his ability to provide leadership in races. In fact, he is currently Southeast Regional Race Director of the Year, and is being considered for the same position nationally.
Abernathy is also treasurer and membership director of the Salisbury Rowan Runners.
Another key point is that most races don’t succeed for very long. Most never get going, because organizers think a 5K is easy to do.
A long list of requirements must be in place before the event will be possible for the first year. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear form two to three organizations wanting to have a running race as a fundraiser.
Most give it up when they see how much work and how many volunteers are needed, along with finding sponsors and undertaking long-term planning.
In my opinion, it is a good thing that they do.
Adam Cornelius was the overall winner with a time of 18 minutes and 6 seconds, and Alana Levie won for the women in 19 minutes flat.
Rockwell resident Cornelius thought he had a good chance to win, and took the lead after the midway point. He was surprised that there was such a large turnout.
“I loved the course, with just one hill it was very fast,” Cornelius said.
Coby, Scott, and Bill Weant all ran, spanning three generations. It was the first running race for all of them.
“We all loved the race and we’ll be doing a lot more of these,” Scott Weant said.
The 2011 Bare Bones 5K was started by Bob Zirt 10 years ago, for all the right reasons.
Today, David Abernathy manages an extremely successful event. More than 220 registrants signed up for the two races, a record in itself.
Relay for Life wins, and so does the community.

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