'Bearathlon' Is Big Time for Young and Old
Young and old bounded about a field, paddled canoes and kayaks, gobbled donuts and cheesecake and splashed through chilly Bear Creek waters.
They raced up a hill through woods and brambles, returning to slip and slide down a muddy slope to splash across once more to the finish line.
Robbins saw its third "Bearathlon" last Saturday, sponsored by the new nonprofit Foothills Outdoors. The group helps develop and maintain hiking, biking and paddling trails, while working to provide free and low-cost recreational opportunities for the area's young people. It grew out of planning sessions during Robbins' three years as one of the first experimental sites for the N.C. Rural Center's Small Town Economic Prosperity program (NC STEP).
William McDuffie, who grew up in Robbins, teamed with then-Town Commissioner Mark Garner and Cynthia Reeves - all outdoor and paddling enthusiasts - to launch Foothills Outdoors. They hoped to promote the area's natural recreational resources and help make Robbins a destination as one way to spur the local economy. Another goal is helping young people get canoes, kayaks and other needed items that would otherwise be out of reach.
The annual Bear Creek Bearathlon shows off the town and its waters every spring. This year, near perfect weather saw a bumper crop of specters, participants, and volunteers. It paired with downtown's box-car derby.
"I hope everyone is well rested and already making plans for next year," McDuffie said. "I know we are, although Lynne (his wife) has requested that I not use the word 'Bearathlon' for at least a month."
McDuffie posted Bearathlon final results, including split times, Wednesday.
"I make note of the fastest solo and team times, which were outstanding, but every competitor should be very proud of the job they did," he said. "The Bearathlon is the type of event that doesn't sound like much when you look at the description. The total distance doesn't even add up to three miles, but I don't think I saw anyone coming up the hill at the finish wishing it was longer."
Even winners could be seen struggling in near exhaustion as they started that final creek crossing. Foothills Outdoors plans to make some changes for next year. One idea is to start the night before, with a camp-out.
"I want to thank everyone for their patience at registration and at the awards," he said. "I mentioned the possibility of camping at the race site on Friday night. That would allow competitors to register and check in and avoid the rush on Saturday morning. For added incentive, everyone coming by on Friday would also find out about the 'special test' prior to the trail portion. One goal for next year is to do the awards at the creek within 30 minutes of the final finisher."
McDuffie was enthused by the number of local residents who turned out to help make the Bearathlon work. One Saturday race started with a song.
"The adult race was preceded by the presentation of our national anthem, beautifully performed by Eden Holt," McDuffie said. "A special thank-you goes to her for helping to make Saturday's race even more memorable."
Other thanks went to the sponsors: Carolina Fried Chicken, Robbins Professional Center, McDuffie Plumbing and Appliance Parts, One Moore Stitch, Deep River Coffee, Town of Robbins, Middleton Mercantile and N. C. Canoe Racing Association
McDuffie also listed a number of hard-working volunteers who helped make this year's race happen:
n Lynne McDuffie (wife, paddler, mom) - T-shirt design, registration and finisher medals (hand-made more than 100)
n River McDuffie (their daughter) - trail clearing, course testing and enduring another year of Bearathlon talk
n Scott Key - water safety, boat wrangling
n Ann Brady and Barbara Smith - donuts and the now famous "Bear Creek Shortcake"
n Daltina Peele - timing and registration (she has not been informed until now about the early awards next year)
n Cynthia Reeves - parking, timing and making something out of this gibberish to go on the Foothills Outdoors Web site
n Mark Garner - parking and boat wrangling
n Terri Ritter - kayaks
n Mike Weber - registration
n Robbins Mayor Theron Bell - photography
n Glenn Gilchrist - photography (http://s921.photobucket. com/home/bearcreekkayak/all albums)
He also mentioned Gail Prevatte and the 4-Hers for keeping everyone hydrated with its water stand and the Robbins Rescue Squad.
"We thank everyone who helped take down the course, carry boats and so forth," McDuffie said. "As always, thanks to Dalton Cheek, who provides the perfect venue and is constantly working to make improvements."
Maps and directions to paddle and hiking trails around Robbins are online at the Foothills Outdoors Web site (foothillsoutdoors.org) as well as more photographs and event news. Donations can be mailed to Foothills Outdoors, P.O. Box 423, Robbins, NC 27325, and inquiries can be directed to email@example.com via e-mail.
"We look forward to seeing everyone at Bearathlon 2011," McDuffie said, "but don't forget there are several more opportunities this year for outdoor fun and competition in the Robbins area. See you on the trails and creeks."
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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