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A clarification and running’s biggest celebration in Salisbury

First thing, I hope many of our readers saw my story on Pastor Pepi Beletti and his family visiting here from Argentina. That story ran as a feature in the Faith section of paper on Saturday. I was fortunate to visit First Reformed Church in Landis on Sunday to hear Pastor Pepi deliver a very moving sermon. I mentioned that Pepi’s family is from Morteros, Argentina. Morteros is about the same size as Salisbury, not several million as I stated. Constanza Herrero, who served as his interpreter, is from Cordoba. Cordoba has a population of close to 2 million. I promised her on Sunday morning that I would clear that up.

Now on to a big week for running in Salisbury. The 31st Annual Novant Health Winter Flight 8K usually kicks off our year of running and racing in Rowan County, and 2014 will be no exception. It is very similar to Daytona and NASCAR. The biggest and most prestigious race comes first in the year, and we have had several months to get ready for the big day. This Saturday, Feb. 8, is important for runners in North Carolina and throughout the southeast. Winter Flight is the North Carolina 8K (4.97 miles) Road Runners Club of America North Carolina State Championship. It also is part of the Running Journal Grand Prix, a long-standing series of some of the best known and longest lasting races from various parts of the southeast.

We get to show off Salisbury to runners from other states. Some of them are top age group runners who travel extensively during the year to compete in other races on the Grand Prix tour. They collect points based on their performance in all those races, and the top point getters will be honored near the end of 2014 for their efforts over multiple distances.

However, the best thing is that normal recreational runners make up the biggest part of the participants. With few exceptions, everyday athletes can’t compete with the best on the same playing field. Running is one of those places where they can. We’ve had Olympians here in Salisbury, and in fact both the male and female course records are held by former Olympians.

The course is a story in itself. For more than 20 years, large numbers of runners have raced over the same course. Once there were 1200 runners in the race. The event will start at Catawba College in front of Goodman Gym and head out to Statesville Boulevard, where the runners take a right and complete a basically flat first mile. Then they climb up to Milford Hills Drive, where they take another right and continue out to Jake Alexander Boulevard Extension. Another right takes the runners past mile 2 and Isenberg School. The course is then rolling hills until they climb to mile 3 and another right on Hwy 601/Innes Street. That right points the runners back toward Salisbury. They pass mile 4 on the long downhill heading toward Catawba. With about 4/10ths of a mile to go and after climbing a short hill, another right turn into Catawba’s campus on North Park brings the runners within sight of Shuford Stadium. A little over half a lap around the track ends with the finish line, in front of the home stands.

For those that have asked, we do get a waiver on the bridge closing on 601/Innes St. North Carolina DOT will allow the runners to use the normal route before they begin to demolish the bridge on the following Monday.

There is a 5K Health Walk too, which follows the same start and turns around on Milford Hills Drive. Walkers return to the stadium the same way they went out, covering 3.1 miles.

New this year is a free ˝-mile fun run for kids 12 and under. Every kid will get a finisher’s medal. Additionally, we have added age groups for the older runners in the championship 8K. Winter Flight is certainly open to young and old, and everybody in between.

All participants get commemorative shirts, plenty of refreshments, a chance at great awards, super door prizes and a ton of fun. To top it all off, every single dollar of proceeds will go to Rowan Helping Ministries. Lots of good people will receive help because of the participation of many of our friends and neighbors, as well as those who attend from other states. This is a day that we can celebrate running, fitness and our blessings while giving for those who need our help.

For more information, go to www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

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