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Twilight 5K a Shining Example of Hard Work Bringing Success

Date: 
08/25/2017 - 14:11

By Richard Betz, President, Highlands Roadrunners Club

IMG_8223.jpgHIGHLANDS, NC — The Fifth Annual Twilight 5K took place in Highlands, NC, on August 19, two days before the Solar Eclipse and in perfect weather conditions. The race was founded in 2013 as the Twilight Rock n Roll 5K by the Rotary Club of Highlands as a fundraiser for youth activities in Highlands. It is a shining example of how hard work on the part of many local community volunteers can grow a race and turn it into a premium event. Derek Taylor, Race Director since its inception, has spent countless hours trying to improve the race each year, and he has had many willing volunteers from the Highlands Roadrunners Club, which has been organizing races on different courses since 1994.

The first Twilight 5-K had 130 runners and raised $8,500, which was used to purchase free weight equipment at the Highlands Civic Center. The next year, participation increased to 250 runners, and $11,000 was raised toward a new running track and softball field at Highlands School. In 2015, participation was up to 300, and over $14,000 was raised for equipment for the Town’s youth swim, the Highlands Hurricanes. Last year’s proceeds went toward completing a skating rink at the Kelsey-Hutchinson Park.

As participation and revenues increased over the years, race organizers decided to have the course USATF certified (NC16004DW). The saying among seasoned runners is that if a course is not certified, it is probably short. Certification also indicates a level of seriousness and commitment to future growth and a desire to attract not just local runners but top runners from Asheville, Atlanta, and surrounding cities. Chip timing was another improvement that made possible instant, accurate results

This year’s race attracted 391 finishers and raised $28,000. Race bibs were personalized, and runners turning in their chips immediately received a printout of their finish time, average pace, and place. A special feature this year was an eclipse-themed shirt and free eclipse-viewing glasses. Highlands was in the path of totality, and many visitors came to Town to view the eclipse at the Park two days after the race.

Other features have grown to include a band playing music after the race on the stage at the Park and plentiful food at the finish line, as well as a free pint of beer from the local Ugly Dog Public House. It is attention to small details like these that race organizers feel makes for a good road race. Most runners have encountered the frustration of delayed or inaccurate results, volunteers sending runners off-course, or not enough food or drink at the finish line. If the race is well-organizers, runners will return and spread the word.

Highlands has been a resort community since its founding in 1875 by Samuel Kelsey and Clinton Hutchinson (thus the name Kelsey-Hutchinson Park) who, legend has it, drew lines on a map from Chicago to Savannah and from New Orleans to New York City. At the point of intersection lies the plateau they named Highlands, 4118 feet above sea level, and soon attracting summer visitors escaping heat and mosquitoes. Over the years it has become a popular tourist and second-home destination, not only for active lifestyles taking advantage of hiking and golf, but also for some of the finest dining and lodging in the South. It is especially a haven for runners escaping the heat and humidity of the south. With the continuing success of the Twilight 5-K, it is hoped that it will become a premium running destination in the area.

Eli Costa (18:28.49) and Amy Passauer (21:43.89) were overall winners. Complete results: https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=110034
Race Website: https://www.highlandstwilight5k.com/

Photo by Brian O’Shea, The Highlander newspaper

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