Gotta Run: Open water triathlon and Craige Farmer’s love for running

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2016

If you ever thought about doing an open water triathlon, Saturday’s Badin Lake Triathlon is worth considering. The setting on Badin Lake is about as picturesque as can be found in our area. Participants will swim 750 yards along the edge of the lake, then cycle about 10 miles before finishing with a 5K run. The bike ride has been changed due to some construction with the end result being a much faster course. The 5K run is also on a new course, with less turns and also likely to be faster. This year, every finisher will get a high quality commemorative medal. Now, more than ever, this is the perfect triathlon for first timers, especially those that want to try open water. There will be plenty of boats and lifeguards keeping the athletes safe.

Look for news next week about a state record and very bright future for a local 6-year-old athlete. Also, Rowan’s biggest race is coming on Friday night, June 10 when the Main Street Challenge 5K hits the pavement in China Grove. This is a fun event that is fantastically supported by the Town of China Grove and benefits YMCA programs. More info on the Badin Lake Triathlon and the Main Street Challenge 5K are at

One of my favorite things to do is offering the beginning runners classes that have been so successful. It is wonderful to see those who finish the class become more involved in the local running and racing scene and continuing their wellness improvement. One of the best examples of this is Craige Farmer, a fall 2015 graduate of the Novant Health/Salisbury Parks and Recreation class. I am now in my 11th year with the classes and Craige has taken the things he learned and became serious about his running quicker than anybody in my memory. Craige said, “I took the class in the first place because I wanted to know the proper training techniques and skills that we would make me a better runner.”

In just about nine months, Craige has made an incredible transition. Now down 30 pounds, it is unusual that we have a race in the county that Craige doesn’t attend. He has improved his speed too, dropping his 5K time from about 27 minutes to just over 20 minutes. Craige does it all with a smile on his face, maybe not so much while racing but soon afterwards. All this for a guy who made a commitment to running at age 49.

Already with 11 5Ks, the Winter Flight 8K and a sprint triathlon completed, Craige says, “I played baseball, soccer and did a little cross country for North Rowan High School, but that was 30 years ago. When I started doing the 5Ks, they fueled my need for competition. Now, I really enjoy doing a long run on Saturday mornings with a group of local runners. My speed and endurance have just took off.”

One of the best quotes I have heard recently came from Craige’s wife, Frances. She asked me, “What have you done to my husband?” Actually, Craige has the physical and mental makeup to take advantage of this great sport and habit. As the Ellis Park supervisor for Rowan County and also as a long-time coach and supporter for youth sports, Craige is very well known. Past president of the Franklin Ellis Pee Wee League, board member of the Spencer Cal Ripken baseball/softball league and assistant coach for the North Hills girls softball team, I am betting that his example of regular exercise and excitement about fitness will serve as a fine lesson to those kids who he works with.

Craige also has a daughter, Elisabeth, who is a junior at Catawba College and whose major is in athletic training. Her activities, including dance and showing horses, have provided huge enjoyment for Craige and Frances.

Since it’s clear that Craige intends on making this fitness thing a lifelong habit, he is already planning a first half marathon and even a marathon. Craige said, “When I first started the running classes, I struggled to complete 3 miles. Now I want to complete 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 45 minutes. When I do my first marathon, I just want to finish it while running the whole way.”

Other habits that have changed for Craige include his diet and sleep pattern. He said, “I have cut out sweet tea and soft drinks, and just have water with all my meals. I pay attention to what goes in my body for fuel, now eating more salads, chicken and lean meats. I sleep more soundly at night since starting regular running and exercise. When I began, I was 185 pounds with no energy and now at 155, I have all kinds of energy.”

As evidence of what the new Craige can do, he competed in his first triathlon at the Buck Hurley YMCA in early May. When his bike’s front tire went flat with 5 miles to go, Craige just kept riding on the flat for a very respectable finish. From my own experience, riding just a few feet on a flat tire is no fun. Craige somehow made it work and I expect that determination will take him a long way toward his goals.

If you are not running yet, consider our next beginning runners class that will start in September at Novant Health. Craige might just drop in for a little inspiration.

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