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Winder road race a great, fun tradition

POSTED: August 6, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Photo Courtesy Caderina Lee/

Russell and Erica Shepley run with their child in the 2013 Summer's End.

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Early Saturday morning, the streets of Winder will be overtaken by people in mesh shorts and athletic shirts partaking in the Summer’s End Road Race, sponsored by the Brad Akins YMCA.

Saturday’s event is the 32nd annual incarnation of the local favorite, but only the tenth or so put on by the YMCA. The Summer’s End race was actually founded by the local Habitat for Humanity, but they passed the torch to the YMCA nearly a decade ago.

Although the proceeds from the race no longer benefit that one particular charity, participants in Saturday’s event can still take pride in knowing that they are doing something for the betterment of the local community.

“We assist the kids and families who can’t afford to come to the Y for after school or to get healthy or to do swim lessons or play soccer and do summer camps or preschool. We pretty much scholarship any program that we have including membership, and that helps with that,” Senior Programs Director for the YMCA Meredith Green said. 

In addition to the scholarship fund at the YMCA, 30 percent of the money goes to funding the Shop with a Cop program put on by Winder’s police. 

As honorable as the charitable contributions from Saturday’s race are, Green admits that the main motivation behind sponsoring this race is altruistic in a different kind of way.

“It’s very important to help raise money for the scholarships and financial assistance, but we try to make it a family event to have people out there being active and getting healthy, and we put the fun run in there so the kids can do something and they get a medal and they think it’s cool,” Green added.

“It’s good to get out there and be healthy and run all over Winder. It’s pretty fun event.”

This fun event has brought Barrow County residents out in droves for years making it one of the most popular road races in the area, largely due to the timing.

Although the name and traditional timing of the End of Summer race may be a holdover from the days of Habitat for Humanity’s involvement, the YMCA decided to keep those pieces in place because they work.

“It’s actually been a pretty popular time of year. A lot of people train for this race, and we’ve also made it a Peachtree qualifying race, so anybody who needs a qualifying time for that can do it in the 5K or the 10K.”

More than 250 runners took to the streets for last year’s 5K with another 102 participants choosing to tackle the 10K.

With so many locals taking part in this traditional event, Green has even noticed a lot of repeat customers coming back year after year after year.

“We have the same people almost every year who do it. The top three finishers get a marble train in each age group, and they pretty much come every year for the marble train and the t-shirt,” Green mentioned.

Part of what makes the annual race so fun and so popular, aside from the summer weekend vibe, is how the organizers intentionally build a family-oriented, child-friendly atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

“There are a lot of kids. It’s a pretty positive environment. I think a lot of people are excited that school’s finally back and they can get back to their workout routine,” Green explained.

“It’s a lot of fun and we have all of our staff out there. We’re out there just because it’s fun,” Green added.

The local boy scouts, troop 173, also volunteer their time to help the event come off without a hitch.

Of course, some people do it just because they love to run. As Green noted, the 5K course has a reputation for being a fast course that avid runners can sometimes take advantage of to chip seconds away from their best times.

Last year’s overall winner was Josh Thompson, a 17-year old male from Buford, who finished in 17:54.5.

“It’s the same race course. The 5K race course is a fast course,” Green reiterated. “He actually set a course record last year. That was very impressive.”

The 5K course starts at the Chamber of Commerce and runs up Broad Street towards the Howard Circle Loop down Woodlawn and back to the start. For the 10K, runners will start at the Chamber of Commerce still and go up past Barrow Regional Medical Center and fork left on Hwy. 53 towards Winder-Barrow High School. Eventually, the race will turn back towards the Chamber of Commerce and bring the longer race back down Woodlawn with the 5K course.

The Winder event is far from the only popular road race in town, however. In fact, sorts of activities have been growing in popularity steadily over the last several years seeing participation grow at almost every age group and skill level.

For whatever reason, road races seem to be the most popular public exercise event in town.

“I think it’s because if you can set a goal of that race or that date and work towards that goal, and pretty much anybody can do these races. You can walk a 5K with a friend and just chat. You can run the 5K, and if you’re an intense runner, you can run the 5K and qualify for the Peachtree,” Green theorized.

“It reaches a lot of people, and the current generation’s life expectancy is the first time that a generation’s has been shorter than their parents’, so I think it’s an epidemic we need to eliminate,” Green said. “If we can have any effect on that issue, we’re glad to try. Healthy living is the first thing people tend to neglect. If you have a goal to train for and something you can do with your friends, that’s something to shoot for.”

Registration is still open for the Summer’s End road race and will stay open through the day of the race, but Green also said that people are welcome to come out Saturday morning to cheer on their friends or volunteer if they would rather not run.

All runners should receive a shirt. Pre-registration guarantees participants a shirt in their size, but even late signees have a decent chance at getting a shirt in their size.

The 10K will open Saturday’s festivities at 7 a.m., followed by the 5K race at 8:15 a.m. and the fun run at 9 a.m.



 

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