West Va.’s 2nd Oldest “Short” Race?
By: Jim Woolfitt
Fairview, WV, can not only boast of having ties to two former Michigan head football coaches, Fielding Yost & Rich Rodriguez, but this small town can also brag about perhaps being host of the state’s 2nd oldest “short race”. (I define a “short race” as ranging from 2.8 miles to 5K.).
This Marion County community organized a self-proclaimed “old fashioned” 4th of July celebration in the bicentennial year of 1976. Activities included a parade, speeches by politicians and fireworks to conclude the festivities. The “old fashioned” concept meant keeping the day commercial free. Carnival rides, itinerant food vendors and other hucksters were not welcome.
In 1981 a fun run was added. Billed as 3 miles, it was more like 2.8 miles according to a local high school cross country coach. As I remember, this coach told me it was hoped the race would help motivate his kids to stay in shape. (The race has always been open to the general public, however.) A handful of trophies are offered and in recent years the first 50 entrants have received souvenir shirts but no entry fee is charged in keeping with the “old fashioned” theme.
My own modest accomplishments bear out the idea of this race being short of 3 miles. I recorded 6 different sub 18 minutes finishes with my course pr set in 1991 with a 17:15. By comparison that same year I also ran my 2 best 5Ks with unpretentious times of 18:39 & 18:51. (Those good with math know, that at a 6:30 or so mile pace, the gap between should 3 miles & 5K should be about 39 seconds, not over a minute.) In 1996 the old course was scrapped and the event was labeled a 5K. The present course appears to be an accurate 5K.
My humble efforts to research the subject of old races show the Parkersburg Thanksgiving 3 mile run to be the state’s oldest “short race”. I realize the state’s oldest continuously held event, the Charleston Distance Run has a 5K division but I don’t remember this being held in 1981 along with the 15 mile race. The CDR opened for business in 1973.
The Poca River Run 15K claims to be West Virginia’s oldest race. I think I read this race was held in the late 1950’s & then was discontinued. It is certainly the state’s oldest continuously held 15K.
I believe the Dunbar Wine Cellar Classic debuted in 1975. It looks to be the state’s oldest 10K.
The Grafton 5 mile run started in 1976. Their claim to be the 2nd oldest race state wide seems to be invalid when compared to the Dunbar event. Grafton might consider claiming to host the oldest 5 mile race. The Beckley 5 mile Thanksgiving run comes in 2nd with their event beginning in 1977.
5K & 3 mile races were not common when my I launched my unassuming road racing career in 1982. The 1982 edition of the Fairview run was history when I “came to running” in August 1982. I had a cumulative total of 9 road races under my belt (or is it under my shoes?) before I got around to entering a 5K in the spring of 1983.
In calculating years of origin, I have subtracted whatever number appears with the word “annual” & then added 1. For example, the Morgantown Deckers Creek Half Marathon recently celebrated its 13th running. 2013 minus 13 equals 2000 plus one equals 2001. The race started in 2001.
One lady has run or walked the Fairview event every year since 1981. Your ever so humble blogger has run this race 26 times & I suppose I may rank in the top 3 for the most frequent appearances. (I can make a similar claim for the aforementioned Grafton race with 27 finishes.) Typically “Fairview” draws 50 to 60 runners & walkers. When the 4th of July falls on a Sunday, the whole celebration is held either on the 3rd or 5th.
I cannot end this blog with a reference to music. I thought about titling this piece “Living in the Past” after the Jethro Tull song of the same name. Instead, how about some lyrics from the title song of the Springsteen album Darkness on the Edge of Town?
“They’re still racing out at the Trestles
But that blood it never burned in her veins
Now I hear she’s got a house up in Fairview
In a style she’s trying hard to maintain”
Any mistakes in this essay belong to me, not TriStateRacer.