Gotta Run: Behind the scenes at Winter Flight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

Salisbury’s 40th Annual New Sarum Brewing Winter Flight races are in the record books for 2023. No other race in the county takes as much planning and cooperation as this event, and I thought this column would be a good opportunity to explain how the event comes together each year.

Usually in the spring, Salisbury Rowan Runners officials confirm the date for the next race. This is done by avoiding Super Bowl Sunday and coordinating with the Catawba College athletics schedule. Catawba has been a partner in the event for 35 years, with the race start in front of the gym and ending on the track.

Next comes making up the race’s information brochure, crowded with the long history of the race and any new changes. At the same time, SRR members begin to seek sponsors for the event. Most of the approximately 40 community sponsors continue their support year after year, especially with all proceeds going to Rowan Helping Ministries.

Since the historic course remains the same and is nationally certified in distance, all that needs doing there is to repaint the mile markers, plus the start and finish. A City of Salisbury events permit is required 60 days ahead of the event and once acquired, the race is full speed ahead. The City of Salisbury provides support from the police, fire and street maintenance departments.

Shirts and awards for three races, the historic 8K, the community health 5K and the half-mile fun run on the track, are ordered. Meredith Abramson and the Lettered Lilly do their new annual logo for the front of the shirt, and they put it in the proper format for printing. Within the last few weeks ahead of the race, the shirts are printed while overall and age group awards for the three races are made at the Trophy House.

Sharing brochures and social media promoting the race are a main focus in the last 4-6 weeks before the race. Rowan Helping Ministries prints the brochures and both SRR and RHM spread the word by social media.

And finally in the last 10 days to 2 weeks, volunteers are lined up and assigned to specific jobs or as course monitors. About 60 overall volunteers are required to make the races happen, many of them focused on race day check in and registration for participants. By 1 p.m., the Catawba gym is very busy as runners/walkers rush to be ready for the 1:30 p.m. fun run (all ages allowed) and the wheelchair and open races that start at 2 p.m. Amidst all of this, the streets are coned, and final course volunteer assignments are made.

At about 1:54 p.m., a welcome and encouragement message from RHM’s Kyna Grubb, a rousing national anthem from Neal Wilkinson and final instructions are all completed by 1:58, the start time for wheel chairs. The 8K/5K races start at 2 p.m. City of Salisbury police and fire, along with the assigned course monitors, keep the runners safe on the course and in the finish area.

A stadium announcer and his crew provide names and hometowns as participants enter the track on the way to the finish. Water, refreshments, photos, awards and cleanup close out the day, at usually about 5 p.m. And by 5:01 p.m., at least some talk begins on how to make next year better.

Next up locally is another favorite race that also benefits Rowan Helping Ministries. On Feb. 25, Centenary Methodist Church hosts the 10th Annual Will Run for Food. It’s a very rural course without a major hill and its protected by the local fire departments. The logo for the race is a shopping cart, ready to be filled with food. No other race in the county has as many home baked brownies, cookies and other pastries. It’s a fun event, always staffed by friendly church members, and walkers are encouraged!

More information about Will Run for Food and other upcoming events is available at