Lace ’em up and Hit the Road:
There’s a Run for Everyone in Stanly County
By Bridget Huckabee
From the January Idiots Run to the December Mayan Doomsday Run, and from a run to the top of Morrow Mountain to a jog around a few city blocks, Stanly County has an event to suit every runner’s taste.
“We have the most diverse activities for runners of any county in North Carolina,” says Peter Asciutto. A dedicated runner, Asciutto is owner of the Vac & Dash shop on Albemarle’s West Main Street. The shop also serves as headquarters for the Uwharrie Running Club.
Peter Asciutto opened the Vac & Dash store in 2004, a few years after taking up running to improve his health. Races were few and far between in Stanly County and Asciutto understood the need for incentives to encourage runners to keep up their training. In 2005 he began the Uwharrie Running Club. He and fellow running enthusiasts went to work.
Prior to 2005 the county held two running events. In 2012, Stanly County will boast 22 diverse running events in and around the county plus a program for beginning runners called Running 101. Runners come to participate from all over the region and, in the case of some of the events, from all over the United States. The 5K Beach Blast Run in 2009 and the 2011 Run the Valley half marathon were designated by the North Carolina Roadrunners Club of America as State Championship Races. Several of these races are free and many are for charitable causes. The Uwharrie Running Club has raised over $5,000 for local charities that includes $1,500 for the Community Care Clinic. All events are staffed by volunteers.
“We have runs ranging from one mile to 19.7 miles and from free races to theme races,” says Asciutto. “Stanly County is a fun place to run given our hilly terrain and quiet scenic routes, and we’re lucky to have support from state and local parks and from some generous corporate sponsors.”
There’s a social side to all this activity. Friendships are formed locally, connections made with other running clubs and support given freely and generously. Volunteers man roadside water stands offering cups of water as the runners pass by. Others shout encouragement from the pavement or cheer the first through the last runner to cross the finish line. Racers include young children, seniors and every age group in between.
Thanks to Angie Greenlee, beginners have the opportunity to join a successful Stanly County support group. When Greenlee began running, she knew 2 other runners and both were marathoners. She realized how beginners needed help and encouragement. This prompted her to start Running 101. Courses start in March and run for 8 to 10 weeks. Meeting once a week, the group starts by running or walking 2 miles around Albemarle. They are encouraged to repeat the exercise 2 to 3 times a week. Mentors from the Uwharrie Running Club act as personal cheerleaders. Motivational speakers urge them on. The end goal of the program is to run the 5K (3.1 miles) Beach Blast event in May.
“We have a good success rate,” says Greenlee. “75% of the group continue to run and then come back and serve as mentors to new runners. Jessica Ingram, one of our motivational speakers, began with Running 101 two and a half years ago and is now running marathons.”
“Setting yearly goals, running in races and running with friends gives runners their motivation,” says Asciutto. “The more quality and variety races we have the more fun we have and the more people we attract to Stanly County, so lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement. Your mind and your body will be glad you did.”