David Freeze: Rowan’s biggest 5K, and a young running star emerges

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

On Friday night, the South Rowan YMCA and the town of China Grove host the Main Street Challenge 5K. That is a simple statement but it’s how they host it that matters. Every effort is made for a quality experience. From early evening, Main Street will be shut down to vehicular traffic through at least 10 p.m. Residents and other spectators find their best lawn chair spots and wait for the races that begin at 8 p.m with several kids’ events and end with the biggest and usually the most competitive 5K in Rowan County.

Race director Aaron Crowe plans this event throughout the year, working with city officials and top flight sponsors to make Friday, June 10 an enjoyable evening for participants and spectators alike. There is a 200 yard tot trot, a half-mile fun run for kids 12 and under, and a fast, out and back course for serious runners and beginners alike. It is a festive atmosphere centered at the China Grove fire department where the evening will end with awards around 10 p.m.

Look for more information on the Main Street Challenge at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

I have highlighted many runners in this column, from long-time grizzled veterans to a few beginners. A unique youngster is the subject of this week’s writing, different from most in that she is experienced and used to running big races already at age 6. That effort recently brought a United States Association of Track and Field North Carolina age group record her way. Here is what happened.

Age group records have been updated and maintained for many years, since way before I started running. Those early sundials were more accurate than you think. The week before the recent Teens with a Mission 5K in Salisbury, I got a call from friend and local veterinarian Rebekah Julian informing me that her 6-year-old daughter, Hope, was going for the 7 and under 5K record. Rebekah had checked with the state record keeper and found out if and how she could run with her daughter in the record attempt. Specific requirements are placed on the time keepers and course verification, but with all of this in place, Hope Julian was set to chase the record.

Coming from what might just be the best running family in the county, Hope has plenty of support. Her mom and dad are both former high school runners, with Rebekah herself a statewide standout during those high school years and then a collegiate runner. Hope’s brothers, 13-year-old Noah and 10-year-old Eli, have both been running and racing for years. Eli is one of the top runners nationally in his age group. All of the kids run for the YMCA Warriors in track and cross country and are coached by Kevin and Ester Marsh. Kevin Marsh said, “Oh, yes! Hope has what it takes. She doesn’t back off.”

Hope wanted to break the age 7 and under North Carolina record of 24 minutes and 47 seconds. Rebekah ran with her, making sure to not touch Hope and to let her lead the way around turns and past other runners. The TWAM course is fast, and the night was cool and perfect for running. Hope pushed hard and broke the record by 11 seconds with an official time of 24 minutes and 36 seconds, a pace of just over 7 minutes and 55 seconds per mile. Other fantastic races are certainly in her future.

I asked Hope some questions, including the obvious one about why she likes running. Hope said, “I like to run fast and try to keep up with my mom. I also like to chase records.”

When I asked Hope about what comes next now that she has the state record, she said, “I will run the 1500 meters in track this summer and do cross country in the fall. I will compete in more 5Ks in the fall with cooler weather.” Current goals include running a 6 minute and 30 second 1500 meter time this year and then making the top eight for cross country in nationals for both 7 and then 8-year-olds.

Other hobbies include interesting activities away from running. Hope said, “I like to play outside with the dogs, work in the garden and practice putting on the golf course with my dad.” I asked Hope if the family ever goes for a run together. She responded, “Depends on the workout, usually mom runs with me and my dad runs with my brothers. We talk about the birds, squirrels, flowers and trees when we are doing long runs that are usually 2 to 3 miles. Many times, my dog, Hermione, runs with me on long runs. For track workouts, we all run together but they give me a head start. My brother, Eli, likes to call it ‘Chase Hope’ and he runs after me.”

Hope recalled her feelings after setting the new age group state record. “I felt really, really excited, but happy and tired too.” Hope spent last weekend running her first 1500 meters in the age 8 and under category for AAU track. Expect great things from Hope and other gifted kids like 7-year-old Brooke Busby as they run on school teams for many years to come.

I hope to see you at the Main Street Challenge 5K and on the roads soon.

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net. Learn more at www.Ulearn2run.com


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