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Winter Flight 8K set Sunday

Local runners and plenty of visitors count on North Carolina’s oldest 8K to kick off a new racing season.

Sunday’s 34th annual Winter Flight 8K continues as part of the Running Journal Grand Prix, a series of some of the oldest races in the southeastern United States. Winter Flight also serves as the Road Runners Club of America North Carolina 8K Championship.

Novant Health is the presenting sponsor.

Runners of all ages will have a chance to compete for age-group awards as well as bigger titles. Past winners have been Olympians who were at the tops of their careers. But plenty of first-time 8K runners will participate, possibly as the next step up from the 5K.

To ensure that all runners have a run/walk option, organizers added a noncompetitive 5K (3.1 miles) Health Run/Walk a few years ago.

Those in the 8K (4.97 miles) should plan to run most of the way, while the 5K will be more casual.

Children will have an option of a free fun run in which every participant will get a medal for finishing. The fun will be on the Catawba College track.

Major sponsors for these events include Catawba College, the city of Salisbury, Scott Weant, the Salisbury Post, the J.F. Hurley YMCA, Piedmont Agri-Systems and Trophy House. All proceeds will go to Rowan Helping Ministries to provide for local people in need.

All participants in the 8K and 5K will get a long-sleeve commemorative shirt designed by local artist Meredith Abramson. Refreshments and awards finish off the event.

Early Winter Flight races included a downtown start and both five and 10-mile runs. Some of the fastest runners in the world have visited Salisbury over the years, with Eliud Ngetich of Kenya holding the course record of 23 minutes and 7 seconds set in 2015. North Carolina Olympian Joan Nesbitt has held the women’s record since 1992 with a time of 26:48.

As many as 1,400 runners came to Salisbury in the run’s early years in the mid-1980s.

For all but one of the past 25 years, the same course has been used for the 8K. Runners start at Catawba College on Yost Street and turn right on Statesville Boulevard. Another right on Milford Drive sends the runners to Jake Alexander Extension and the two-mile mark. Mile 3 is near the intersection of Jake Alexander and a right turn on U.S. 601. Just before Sides Road is the four-mile mark before the final turn on North Park Drive back onto Catawba’s campus and a finish on the stadium track.

A pasta dinner will kick off the festivities Saturday evening at J.F. Hurley YMCA. Registration is available on Saturday evening and on Sunday until race time. For more information, go to www.salisburyrowanrunners.org or call 704-310-6741.

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