Further Review: In the running
Column by Ken Cohen
June 21, 2013 I've gone to three 5k races in the last month or so. (Notice I said "gone" and not ran). My wife has taken a sudden interest in these races and has asked me to come watch. To be honest, there's not much to see if you're trying to hone in on a particular person. You get one glimpse at the start and one at the finish and that's it.
But everything else I see about these races is fantastic. From the amount of participants (roughly 900 last week in Rock Hill), to the organization and volunteerism to the causes they are raising money for. And though each 5k is obviously the same distance, each race (at least the three I have observed) is completely different. Different courses, different atmospheres, different winners.
At the Allyson Whitney 5k in Kauneonga Lake, the race was preceded with Zumba dances, raffles, merchandise sales and an overall celebratory aura. The Sullivan West Powder Run was literally a blast as runners were hit with puffs of colored powder at several locations throughout the race and really hammered just before the finish. My nine-year-old daughter didn't run, though others her age did. But she was able to participate by becoming an official powder girl. She loved it.
And the Rhulen Rock Hill Ramble is simply impressive. From its precise organization to the beauty of the course to the magnitude of participants all gathering at the finish line to cheer others on.
I had never been to a 5k race before these three. I am quickly finding out why they are so popular and I predict will continue to grow. First, they don't take long. You can be in and out of there in less than one hour. For many people, especially parents of young children, that's all the time they have for themselves on a weekend. Second, they are a great family activity. I saw entire families run in all three races even generations of families. Kids are trying to beat their parents, husbands and wives going stride for stride. Third, it's relatively inexpensive. Entry fees are generally in the $25 range and usually go to support a cause. They include a t-shirt, other goodies, pre-and post race food and prizes. Better yet, it really doesn't cost anything to practice just a good pair of running shoes.
Fourth, each runner has their own personal goals or reasons for running. My wife is intent on improving her time with each race. Others want to finish in the top five in their age group. Some just want to be part and contribute to an event. There really is something for everyone.
Finally, everyone can see their results online within hours of the finish. You can see who you beat and how you fared within your age group. You can never underestimate the satisfaction people derive from seeing their name in some medium.
I see now why my sport is losing potential new players to running. Golf is too expensive, takes too long to play, is not always women or family friendly, does not promote fitness (especially with mandatory carts) and is too hard. Running is just the opposite time efficient, cheap, inviting, healthy and relatively simple to learn.
In fact, I've been so won over by these 5Ks, I went to the track last weekend and ran two miles. We're planning a family outing at the Smallwood run in a few weeks.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.