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Annual Winter Flight 8K is next Sunday

The area’s most well-known race, the 32nd Annual Novant Health Winter Flight 8K, is set for Sunday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. at Catawba College. As in recent years, Winter Flight is the Road Runners Club of America North Carolina 8K Championship and is part of the prestigious Running Journal Grand Prix Series. But more importantly, Winter Flight is the race that played a huge part in getting this fantastic running thing going in Salisbury and Rowan.

As I write this, we are just eight days away from the race. Imagine what you were doing 32 years ago? For myself, I had just been running for a few years but was already hooked terribly. I had a few marathons under my belt and looked forward to searching out a race for nearly every weekend. The landscape for running was different than it is now. Winter Flight officially started the racing year in North Carolina and many of the closest races were hundreds of miles away. Winter Flight quickly became one of the major races in the Southeast, topping out at 1,500 participants. For years, Winter Flight attracted national and even world-class runners. Both current course records were in fact set by Olympians. Nationally-known speakers came here to be involved and the Saturday evening pasta dinner was the place to be.

Now, there are four other races in our area on the same Sunday, plus a bunch more on the Saturday before. Still, Winter Flight is the class of all of those races and it is made so by the extra effort of SRR members and local sponsors and partnering organizations. There is an extremely rich history with our local race that only a few other races can even imagine.

Other sponsors for the 2015 Winter Flight 8K, 5K and Fun Run include the City of Salisbury, Catawba College, the Trophy House, Fowler Physical Therapy, Ameriprise Financial Mike Wright CFA, Brent Parks CPA, Dr. Acquawon Stallworth, Ralph Baker Shoes, Civitan Club of Salisbury, Community Grocery, Cleveland Drug, Piedmont Agri-Systems, the Salisbury Post, the Forum, F&M Bank, Koontz, Smith and Corriher, Attorneys at Law, Whimziggy, Novant Health Faith Internal Medicine, Marathon Printing, Apple Baking Co., Cheerwine, Vac and Dash, and Bradshaw Financial Planning.

The half-mile fun run is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. with the 8K and 5K to follow at 2 p.m. The fun run is free for kids, 12 and under. The 8K is competitive and open to anyone. The 5K is untimed and open to those who are not competitive and who will be running or walking the shorter distance.

All fun run participants get finisher medals. State championship awards go to the overall, masters, grandmasters, and senior grandmasters winners. Age group awards will also be given in 15 divisions for both men and women. All 8K and 5K participants get commemorative long sleeve t-shirts designed by Whimziggy.

Be there to experience Winter Flight, on the same course that many of those elite runners ran years ago. Or be there to watch runners of all levels and help celebrate the day. Back in those early years, the Salisbury Rowan Runners club was much smaller but almost every single club member came out to be involved. They had to because the club was the backbone of the event and almost everyone had a specific job. I remember being in Wisconsin for work in the winter and had to miss a Winter Flight and I hated that fact. It was the last one that I missed as either a runner or a volunteer.

Our goal for this year is to put together the best race that we can, make a rich and rewarding experience for the participants and volunteers, and finally to make a significant contribution to Rowan Helping Ministries.

Online registration is available through Saturday at noon at www.sportoften.com and a printable brochure is available at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org. Additional information is available at 704-310-6741 or 704-202-6601.

Later this week, I will have a specific look at some of the runners who will be on hand this year. There will be a significant challenge to the male course record, plus we will have one of the nation’s top male masters (over age 40) runners, a multiple-time Winter Flight women’s overall winner and maybe best of all, a World War ll veteran who always looks forward to coming to Salisbury. That veteran usually wears part of his actual uniform.

If there is a sporting event not to miss, either as a participant or spectator, this is it. The excitement of watching a human running well under a 5 minute-per-mile pace for almost 5 miles on a challenging course is worth being a part of the fun. It all starts with Neal Wilkinson’s National Anthem and it is going to be fun. Lots of Rowan’s runners look forward to this day. Come be a part of it!

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