Gotta Run: Races — too much of a good thing?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2016

Everyone has been planning their races for the upcoming year, and there are few open weekends locally. Is that a good thing? There are lots of varying opinions. Let’s examine what has happened to the racing scene, both locally and nationally.

When I started racing back in the early ‘80s, I realized very quickly that I enjoyed challenging myself both mentally and physically with races of various distances. At the time, we had about four or five races in Rowan County. Charlotte had a few, so did Winston-Salem and Greensboro. By the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was hooked on the competition and the only way to get my weekly fix was to do some driving. Most weekends, I was willing to drive a couple of hours and sometimes a lot more to find a race. A small hardcore group of us might end up in Asheville or Wilmington and often I would know many of the runners who would challenge for the win. We raced at all distances, several marathons a year and a ton of 8Ks, 10Ks and 10-milers.

Lots of those runners are still around, none able to run the times that they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I call them and myself grizzled veterans. That is one thing that has changed, but there are many others. Just this past week, I read in the Running Journal that at least one of the columnists has lots of concerns. She is one of those grizzled veterans and experienced the earlier time of fewer races. Let me say that the Running Journal is my favorite running magazine, simply because the eight to 10 columnists know what they write about and they don’t just rehash the same topics over and over like Runner’s World. Running Journal, both online and in print, is the best source of information and racing schedules by state for the whole Southeast.

The columnist took the bold step to say that perhaps there are too many races. She is from Wilmington and says that often there are two to three races per weekend in town and that usually most of them are not well attended. While to a lesser degree but in danger of catching up, Salisbury and Rowan aren’t far behind.

For the most part, with some scheduling cooperation and a strong organization like the Salisbury Rowan Runners carrying some clout, Rowan charities have not had any success at scheduling one race on top of another one. A few have tried and defied reason, going ahead with a race on the same day and approximate time of another more established event. None of these has been successful yet.

With that said, there are lots of fantastic charities out there. Many of them already have a 5K on their behalf. Usually once or twice a week, I hear from someone who wants to have another race. I am all for new races, but only to a certain degree. Here are my thoughts. Solid and established events like Winter Flight, the China Grove Main Street Challenge 5K, the Butterball 5K and the Spooky Sprint 5K continue to thrive. But the reason they do is because race organizers work all year planning and building on a good thing.

What goes wrong with races? Usually it boils down to organization and effort, just like many other new ventures that either succeed or don’t. Just about every time, it takes a person who is willing to treat the event as their own while they build a trusted team to help organize the event. That team shares the work in the next few years. When these things don’t happen, the new race usually disappears.

For now, I will say that the normal process is doing well locally. The overall trend is that more people are running and the races are averaging slightly less in participants. Some people don’t need to race every weekend and they take longer to choose, making registrations come in later and later.

I once ran 52 races in the same year, searching far and wide to see if I could do it. That year’s total included four races in the same weekend, all at maximum effort. I will remember that weekend as harder than most of my marathons.

Have you thought about self-defense while out walking and running? The Rowan County Public Library on Fisher Street is offering a seminar on Feb. 22 on how to protect yourself should the need arise. The presentation is part of the informative “Learn, Act, Grow” series. Marathoner Ricky Smith of Sidekick Karate and the Salisbury Police Department will share the stage from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The cost is free, but everyone should call 704-216-8228 for reservations since this is expected to be a popular seminar.

With some major progress just this morning in my continuing recovery from a sciatic nerve issue, I wanted to share something that has me excited. I mentioned earlier that Fowler Physical Therapy has been helping me and just recently began using Total Motion Release on this injury. Dr. Delaine Fowler said, “TMR is based on finding tissue restrictions within the body and teaching people that they can release these restrictions to free themselves from pain and immobility.” She used it on me several years ago to relieve a softball injury. So far, so good! I had the best run in over a month this morning despite the 16-degree temperature. TMR was developed by physical therapist Tom Dalonzo Baker.

With snow in the forecast, go for a relaxed run or walk in it. It is my favorite time to enjoy nature! Hope to see you out there!


David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at Learn more at