Downhill@Dawn half marathon draws new, veteran runners
LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center hosted the second annual half marathon.
RIDGECREST, N.C., 6/11/2009 08:03 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)
The air was crisp as about 100 runners gathered behind the starting line of the Downhill@Dawn half marathon June 6, in the Blue Ridge Mountains at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center outside Asheville, N.C.
As the official race stopwatch kept time, new runners and experienced racers journeyed along quiet streets, beside flowing water, down gravel pathways and through a quaint one-stoplight community on their 13.1-mile trek to the finish line at First Baptist Church in Old Fort, N.C.LifeWay Christian Resources, ChristianRunners.org and the Nashville Striders, who handled most of the race’s administrative work, co-sponsored the event.
While the weekend was focused mostly on activities for people who love running, spiritual aspects were incorporated into the event as well, including a short devotional time after a pre-race pasta buffet Friday night and a prayer at the starting line Saturday morning.
Paul Pickett, a participant from Pine Hurst, N.C., appreciated the Christian environment. "Other races aren’t bad, but it’s nice to be able to come to a race and talk about God and not feel bad," he said. "And this course is absolutely beautiful."
Pickett had heart surgery as a child and wasn’t able to exercise much growing up. He began running a few years ago and Downhill@Dawn was his third half marathon.
"I run because I’m thankful," he said. "It’s hard and it takes discipline, but if you make up your mind to do it and get into a routine, it get’s easier."
For Tony Farmer, a pastor in Deerfield Beach, Fla., Downhill@Dawn was his third half marathon as well. Inspired by his former youth pastor Fred Garmon, who has run for years with two other running buddies, Farmer began running last year out of concern for his health.
"I have a 17-year-old at home and when I turned 40 years old, I knew I had to do something about my health," said Farmer. "So I started running, and so far I have lost more than 65 pounds."
Farmer’s inspiration, Garmon, also ran in the Downhill@Dawn event. He works for a humanitarian organization in Southeast Asia and considers running to have significant spiritual benefits. "Running is a time to just get out and pray and meditate … and with no cell phone," he said, grinning.
Joseph Watson, from Ridgecrest, was the first to cross the finish line. Though Watson is also a new runner and Downhill@Dawn was his first half marathon, he was out in front of the pack for most of the race.
"I can’t believe I came in first," he said. "I kept looking around while I was running and wondered where the people were."
In addition to many relatively new runners, many veteran racers also participated in the Downhill@Dawn event, including Lynda De Paulis from Hermitage, Tenn., who celebrated her birthday on the day of the race.
"I’ve been running for over 32 years," De Paulis said. "So far this year I’ve run a half marathon every month." Her birthday present was a second place finish in the race bracket "females, 50 years old and up."
Plans are already underway for the third annual Downhill@Dawn event to be held next June at Ridgecrest. For more information, visit LifeWay.com/halfmarathon.