Check the form, the shorts, the shirt, the socks (!) on this totally unidentifiable runner in the 1987 Dominion Festival 5K. In evidence of the overall slowdown of 5K times over the decades: He was 12th in the 40-44 age group at 19:22, a time which would have easily won the 40-44 in the 2014 Festival 5K, where the top finisher ran 20:48.
The story below is excerpted from our Sept./Oct. 2014 issue. For the full story download our FREE app or view our web-based digital edition for FREE today!
The sad trend is more walkers, more emphasis on participation over competition and ever-slower times. Just ask someone who’s lost as much off his 5K time as anybody.
Maybe one way to look at the evolution of the 5K run in the Roanoke area over the years of this magazine’s existence is to consider that in running races over the span of most of those years, my time has deteriorated from a personal record (PR) of 18:26 to the god-awful 26:04 I ran at the 33rd Annual Shawsville 5K back on July 4.
Naw, maybe that’s not the way to look at it.
Or perhaps it is, given the overall trend of more and more races featuring more and more walkers and significantly slower average times over those years.
Take, for example, the contrast at what is one of the oldest 5K races still around. This spring at the Vinton Dogwood Festival 5K there were, among the 104 finishers, just four who ran it in under 20 minutes. Contrast that, just for example, to 1993, when there were 40 people under 20 minutes at the same race, and seven runners under 16 minutes, among 103 finishers. (It should be noted that the big bad Blue Ridge Marathon, which runs the same day as the Dogwood, has undoubtedly siphoned some speed from Vinton, but the point stands.)
Go back to look for an area 5K in 1974 and it appears the closest thing is the Salem Distance Run in August, which also celebrates its 40th this year, and which has featured a 5K for many years, but started out a “6.3 miles, I think it was,” according to Joe Larocco (17:10 PR), who ran in the first Salem race and planned, as we went to press, to run in the 40th as well.
The Dogwood goes way back as well, but the good people at Vinton Baptist Church, who have run it for at least 20 years, are not sure how far. Long-time Vinton runner Patsy Crowder (PR: 28:30) started running in 1978 and has been a fixture at the race ever since.
Scout for a 5K race in the immediate Roanoke area in 2014 and you’ll find one on nearly all warm-weather weekends, and on more than half the weekends of the whole year. That’s a good thing in a way, but there’s also an accompanying trend: At many of those races, more than half of the participants walk. In fact, at the Komen cancer-cure “race” this spring, you had to pay extra “if you want to be timed,” like it was, you know, vain or something. They played the National Anthem for the daggone walkers!
On Thanksgiving Day at the 15,000-participant Drumstick Dash, the huge preponderance are doing no dashing whatsoever. In 2013, there were about 3,000 people finishing in under 50 minutes, by which point things are definitely pretty strollish – leaving 12,000 people pre-walking off the T-Day dinner. A wonderful event and family-and-friends gathering to be sure, but maybe we should re-name it the Giblets Meander?
Wasn’t so back in the heyday of area races, highlighted by the likes of Festival Run, the Virginia Western 5K, the Dogwood and – just down into Montgomery County – the aforementioned Shawsville 5K.
Which, by the way here three-plus decades on, has somehow maintained its purity as a race. Yes, there are a few walkers back there, but in every age group from 9 and under up to 70-74, there are, every year, exemplary times. I mean I finished third in the ol’ 65-69 this year, and was more than four minutes behind the amazing Doc Weiss (16:45 PR). What a dude, what a guy.