By Benjamin Cohn
Woodfin – Nearly 250 competitors descended onto humble Woodfin last Saturday to participate in the town’s 6th annual “Read, Write and Run 5k.”
Race data from the past several years are available for perusal and show an upward trend in the race’s popularity. In 2015’s May 2nd race, 115 runners registered. All but a handful were residents of Buncombe County, with the majority of those hailing from Asheville. The following year in 2016, 143 participants joined in the run, one runner coming from as far as New York City.
Saturday’s runners represent a growth rate of more than 97 percent over the number of runners four years ago. “The Woodfin 5K presented by AVL Technologies is one of the premier running events in western North Carolina and draws participants from a four-state area,” said race director John Conley. “The event harnesses the cultural energy of the Town of Woodfin and offered runners a challenging tour of this historic city. The field grew by nearly 30% this year and that spectacular growth tells us that the Woodfin 5K will soon be the flagship Asheville area 5K.”
The race itself began and ended at Woodfin Elementary School, located at 108 Elk Mountain Road. Proceeds from corporate sponsors, registration fees and donations “will be used to fund literacy and healthy living programs at Woodfin Elementary School, in addition to other community service programs,” according to event literature. The event is one of Woodfin Elementary’s main fundraising events.
Runners who registered for the race early paid only 20 dollars to sign up, saving five bucks over their less-proactive counterparts.
For those residents who wanted to contribute but were unable to attend the event, the option to sponsor a student was available.
According to the event’s website, the Woodfin Elementary School wanted to encourage our students … to stay active. They were allowed to run or walk free of charge. Woodfin Elementary has been an integral part of the local community for nearly 100 years. The top finishers, according to race timing services company Event Mercenaries out of Black Mountain, NC, were all locals, 20 to 50 years of age.
“Weaverville’s Mitch Mull and Asheville’s Jennings Garry set male and female course records on the newly designed course starting and ending on the campus of historic Woodfin Elementary School. Garry, an accomplished master’s division trail runner finished in 21:20 and Mull, a well-known local runner finished in a strong 19:39. The men’s master’s division was won by Fletcher’s Marco Brancker in 22:17 and the women’s division was taken by Asheville’s Jeryl Sloan in 26:04,” stated a press release.
AVL Technologies, a Woodfin-based satellite antenna manufacturer, held the honor of being the race’s presenting sponsor. Other corporate sponsors for the event included Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty, a firm represented at the race by resident Gus Mujica, Jimmy’s Automotive, Steak ‘n Shake and Mills Manufacturing.
Mujica spoke briefly to The Tribune about his role in Saturday’s race and the changes the event has experienced since last year.
“My official role is as a member of the [event’s] board of directors. Founding member, board of directors,” he said. “We did finally incorporate the race, so basically what was happening with the race was every year it was a little bit volatile, based on the workload and the principal and who would step up to be the race director.
“I stepped up in year four. I was involved as a co-chair on year four as a PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) President, a parent. In year four I was the race director. Year five I was basically another co-chair in support of the principal…This last year we were able to fund the race in order to hire a director,” Mujica said.
This year’s race director was John Conley. “He’s [Conley] been involved over the past 20 years, owning and producing some of the largest events in Texas. He was the owner of the Austin marathon and half-marathon,” according to Mujica.
“The Woodfin 5K is the signature running event in Woodfin and one of the best 5Ks in the Asheville area,” said Woodfin 5K Board President Charlie Glazener. “This race allows the community and friends of our community to support a historic and most worthy educational institution that will pay dividends for many years to come.”