It's easy to forget how refreshing a small race can be.
But I was reminded of that truth at this morning's Mt. Mourne VFD Elf 5K Race up near Mooresville. For example: We were able to park less than a 100-yard dash from the finish line. There were two port-a-potties, and 20 minutes before the starting gun, there was no line and neither stall was occupied.
It also didn't hurt that beforehand and afterward, all runners -- plus their guests and the race staff -- were able to comfortably fit inside the heated volunteer fire house in Mt. Mourne. (Chris Elkins, owner of Run For Your Life-University, even had a little product table set up across the aisle from the row of refreshments.) This was particularly key given the outdoor temps were barely 30 degrees and the wind was gusting to 15 miles per hour.
But the best thing about small races is that they can put awards in the hands of a large percentage of the participants. In the case of the Mt. Mourne race, there were 117 official finishers this morning ... and 68 of those people took home trophies. (We'll forgive them for the Dick's Sporting Goods gift certificates that were "Good Until Dec. 31, 2009." The race was originally scheduled for Dec. 19 but postponed due to yucky weather; and for the record, organizers said they'd make things right if recipients had trouble redeeming the prizes.)
It was fun to see friends do so well and get rewarded, people like: Dianne Allen, who picked up second overall in the women's division with her 23:01; Billy Shue, who clocked a 17:09 goof for third place overall after deciding to drive up from University City for the race just a few hours earlier; Alejandro Arreola, who made it look easy with an 18:26 to take the men's 25-29 age group (he ran with his dog, who unofficially won the canine division); Allen Strickland (third place in men's 40-44, 20:22), with whom I'll be trying to keep up at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach this March; Bobby Aswell Jr. (first place in men's 45-49, 18:38), who was running his third race of 2010; and Larry Seavers (first place in men's 65-69, 24:42), who along with wife Kathy are among the best-known and nicest runners in Charlotte.
Meanwhile ... didn't get to meet my Facebook friend Jyl Deering, but I saw on the results page that she ran a 31:49; for my wife, Amanda Janes, it was the first time she'd completed a 5K without taking a walk break (30:58); Bill Weimer, who suffered a heart attack last year, finished in 24:45; and Chad Randolph rang up a 21:40 while wearing Vibram FiveFingers and pushing his son in the baby jogger.
The smallness of the race also enabled the Mt. Mourne firefighters to give out door prizes to virtually every participant. They were mostly assorted items of the hardware-store variety, like grills and tool sets and flashlights, although my wife got a $5 Caribou Coffee gift card and I saw someone else with a Fuel Pizza gift card.
Apparently I was announced as a door prize winner toward the end of the event, right after we ducked out to zip off to another function. But I didn't walk away empty-handed: My 21:08 (a PR!) took top honors in the men's 35-39 division. Granted, there were only two other runners in my age group ... but I'll take it.
A trophy, after all, is something I'm not likely to ever get at a big race.