The seventh annual Feed Stokes race held on Saturday can be considered nothing less than an unmitigated success, drawing 365 racers from nine different states to compete in both a 5k and half-marathon contest.
This year was the second year in a row that the race has doubled it participation and organizers say they hope they can grow it to 500 racers for next year.
“It has been fabulous,” said race organizer Jeff Beckelhimer. “We had a runner come from Washington State. We had a runner from Ohio. We had runners from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina. We grew to 365 compared to 187 runners last year.”
The annual race is a fundraiser for the county’s three food pantries, and Beckelhimer said doubling the number of participants would mean more money to help feed the county’s hungry.
“We raised over $13,000 for local food pantries,” he said. “It is absolutely amazing. We will be able to donate over $4,000 to each pantry.”
King Mayor Jack Warren said the race was also a real benefit for the city.
“This gives us a lot of exposure and shows off what King is all about,” he said. “It not only gives us business in King, but it lets people know what kind of a community we are. We are a community of outdoors-men and patriots. We love people, we love our city and we love our youth. These people from out of state will tell people about King and who knows, we might get some new residents. It is great for the city.”
“People seem to have really enjoyed it and like it,” said Beckelhimer. “We are getting a lot of good success stories from people.”
Those stories ranged from the successes of the race winners to the Jock Lloyd Challenge winners to more personal successes like brothers Jacob Tilley and Jason Smith.
Smith lost his sight in a 2002 car accident and was guided through the 5K race, the second the pair of completed, by Tilley.
“Jason is the one who pushes me,” said Tilley. “He wakes up at five in the morning and comes to my room asking if I am ready to go to the gym. He asks me to get him to the treadmill closest to the fan and he has learned where all the knobs are and knows the whole set up. He sets it at a jogging speed as steep as it will go and runs for about an hour and half all on his own. He started to make me look bad so I had to start running with him.”
Tilley said when the pair are road running, he will guide his brother from behind on flat stretches and take the lead on hillier terrain.
“I let him set the pace and I am just there to direct him,” he said. “I do the directions and he does the power.”
The brothers said running has drawn them even closer together.
“There is something about it, out there with just the two of us running,” said Tilley. “I’m pushing him and he is pushing me.”
“It is not scary because I know I have him for my eyes,” said Smith.
Smith took third place in his age group and Tilley took second in his age group.
For the staff and students at Meadowbrook Academy the race offered another way to succeed — winning a county-wide athletic award at a school which has no sports.
The school won the Jock Lloyd Challenge, a competition to see which county school can have the most participants in the race per capita, for the second year in a row.
“We had a total of 17 participants with eight students participating,” said Principal David Hicks. “We have no athletics because we are focused 100 percent on academics. This is important because we want the community to know we are a regular school like everybody else, we just don’t have sports. We concentrate on getting kids ahead and caught up so they can graduate. That is our goal.”
Hicks prepared for the 5K by taking afternoon walks with some of his students, and said his staff was proud to come out and support the students.
“I think it is pretty great,” said student Brandon Simmons. “At Meadowbrook they support you in everything that you do.”
North Stokes High School also had a successful day, taking the top three spots in the 5K race, with students Jacob McGee and Durham Dawson taking first and second place respectively and track coach Rodney King taking third place.
King noted that it was his best time since running in high school.
McGee, a freshman who competes in cross country and indoor and outdoor track, said he is looking forward to continue to train and compete at state level track meets.
The top female runners in the 5K were Madison Sexton, first, Melanie Trump, second, and Beth Lillycrop, third.
The winner of the half marathon, Josh Pinyan, of Salisbury, said he was running the race as preparation for the Boston Marathon.
“Me and my wife always look for a half that is about a month out from Boston,” he said. “You want to do that to make sure you are in the right spot for your training.”
He said this will be the third time he and his wife have run the Boston Marathon.
“We went in 2011 and I proposed to her then,” he said. “We missed the year of the bombings, but when my wife heard about it she said we have to go back next year so we had to find a marathon real quick to qualify for the next year.”
Pinyan’s wife, Meleah, took the top female spot in the half marathon, followed by Charlotte Leighton and Katie Rose. Matthew Darisse took second overall in the men’s race with Nathan Beamguard taking third.
All of the runners, spectators, and volunteers were treated to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the King Rotary Club and the Chestnut Grove Ruritans. Rotarians spent the morning cooking and serving participants and the Walnut Cove Rotary Club helped with registration.
Beckelhimer said the event would not be possible without the support of the city, the county and many, many volunteer groups.
“Without that support we could not have an awesome event that helps raise so much money that stays right here in the county to help our friends and family,” he said. “The sponsors, the ROTC group they were fantastic.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.