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Wednesday, 14 March 2007 00:00

At the starting line: New running group gathers momentum in Haywood County

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By Michael Beadle

Running can be a lonely sport. It’s hard finding someone who has a similar pace, someone who runs when you do, someone who can get you through those tough, uphill climbs.

 

Scot Worley knows what it’s like.

“I really enjoy training runs when I do it with someone else,” he says. “Your abilities do improve a lot.”

Ever since watching his father-in-law Gary Melville run the 2000 Boston Marathon, Worley’s been inspired to compete in his own share of road races — from 5-kilometers and 8-kilmeter runs on up to marathons and triathlons. He’s already scheduled to run the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon. He’s even become the race director for the Folkmoot 5K held each July in Waynesville.

In an effort to help other local runners and learn more about the growing fitness community in Haywood County, Worley organized a meeting at the Waynesville Fitness Center last month to start a new running club for Haywood harriers. About 30 people showed up, and since then Worley has received additional emails and phone calls about the club.

“There’s a lot of interest in people wanting to be involved in this,” Worley said.

The goal is to set up a Haywood County-based executive board or committee to gather lots of prospective runners’ names, phone numbers, addresses and emails for a membership database of volunteers and then become officially sanctioned as a club by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Members of the club don’t have to be residents of Haywood County, Worley said, but the officers or executive board members would be Haywood County residents. With a good base of volunteers, local racing directors could draw on a pool of runners to help organize and bring more people out to these events.

T.J. Bristle is one of those Haywood County runners who’s been ready to join a local running club. He and his wife Lori can be found at plenty of area races throughout the year, mostly in Western North Carolina but also in South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“We run 30 to 40 races a year,” T.J. said.

More than competing in races, he enjoys the camaraderie of runners. Last fall, when he and 11 other local runners competed in a 24-hour, 208-mile relay road race from Grayson County, Va., to Asheville, part of the fun was just getting to crack jokes and swap stories with fellow runners.

“It’s a good way to get people into the sport and develop a sense of community,” said Greg Duff, racing director for the Lake Logan Triathlon.

Duff said last year’s inaugural triathlon — Haywood County’s first — drew 161 athletes. This year he’s expecting about double that number. As he welcomes the idea of a Haywood County running club and plans to be a member, Duff is also helping to start up a regional triathlon club. Dubbed the Carolina Mountains Triathlon Club, this group already has more than 40 members, and Duff is hoping to recruit more athletes in Haywood County and counties west of Asheville.

In Buncombe County, the Asheville Track Club is the dominant running group and has its own Web site, calendar of racing events, links for runners, finishing results from local races, a photo gallery, and a grand prix racing series with cash prizes.

Worley likes the idea of setting up a racing series for Haywood County events, where competitive runners could rack up points based on their finishing times or places. Another idea would be to compile various running routes around Haywood County that runners could use to train as hikers do with trail maps.

At the Waynesville meeting in February, all sorts of ideas were bounced around as potential projects for the club — setting up a Web site, promoting running events, organizing regular group runs, supporting running programs in the schools, gathering racing equipment like timers and mile markers that can be shared among race coordinators, and scheduling local social events where runners can meet and get to know each other.

“We don’t want to leave out the walkers either,” Worley added.

There are currently six running events scheduled this year in the Haywood County — the Lake Junaluska 5K (April 7), The Human Race 5K (June 2), the Folkmoot 5K (July 21), the Lake Logan Triathlon (Aug. 4), the Maggie Valley Moonlight 5K and 8K races (Aug. 18), and the Bethel 5K and Half Marathon (Oct. 13). Some of these events such as the Maggie Valley Moonlight Run and the Folkmoot 5K also include half-mile and mile fun-runs for young children. More than 40 races — including cycling and multi-sport races — are scheduled throughout Western North Carolina this year, and a new running club could help disseminate that information. Running club volunteers could also help bring out more packs of runners and generate publicity for the organizations and communities that sponsor these events.

T. J. Bristle said he’d be happy to volunteer at races or help organize them.

“We’re excited,” he said. “This opens up a lot of potential.”

But just as any given race takes a great deal of coordination as Worley learned from organizing the Folkmoot 5K last year, a running club would also take time to establish.

“We really don’t want to rush into this,” Worley said.

For more information about the Haywood County running club, contact Scot Worley at the Waynesville Recreation Center at 828.456.2030.

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