LUMBERTON — The weather couldn’t have been better for the more than 135 runners who took part in Saturday’s Chevy to the Levee 5K race held at Luther Britt Park.
“It was perfect for running,” runner Jason Britt, of Lumberton, said shortly after finishing the race. “There was no wind. The temperature was perfect. The only problem was there were a few pine roots along the route.”
The Robeson Road Runners, the city of Lumberton and Lumberton Chevrolet sponsor the annual Chevy to the Levee, a day of physical fitness activities for members of the whole family.
“The Road Runners put a lot of effort into this event,” Britt said. “They make it a family event.”
Bob Fisher, a past director of the Robeson County Library system, participated in the race with his daughter-in-law, her daughter and his grandson.
“There were three generations of us in today’s race,” Fisher said. “I only missed the race one time since it’s been held.”
Fisher said he and his family members walked at a 15-minute-per-mile pace.
“That’s not bad. Anyone can do that with just a little preparation,” he said.
The day’s events also featured a 1-mile “fun run” and, for the first time in the event’s history, a 50K bike ride.
There were 22 cyclists who participated in the ride, according to Jason Bryant, a member of the Road Runners, which organized the ride. The 32-mile ride took cyclists through parts of Lumberton and other sections of Robeson County.
Bryant called the ride a success, although the temperature early Saturday morning when the ride was held was a little too chilly for some of the cyclists.
“We were riding pretty fast,” he said when he returned to Luther Britt Park from the ride in less than two hours.
The event also featured canoe and paddle boat rides, with the canoes and boats donated by River Way Outdoor Adventure and Education Center and the Lumber River State Park. There was also music, food and a kids’ zone.
And for the first time, there was a chicken bog sale, with the proceeds supporting the Lumberton Youth Baseball Association.
Although the number of participants in the races, as well as those taking part in the more leisurely events at the park, decreased from previous years, Scott Billingsley, president of the Road Runners, called the event a success. Billingsley said having the event in November for the first time, as well as there not being as many vendors and organizations setting up booths as in the past, might have kept the turnout down a little.
“We’re trying to find a day and month that can satisfy everyone,” he said. “Today the weather was perfect for the runners, but a little too cool for the cyclists. When we held the event in October, it was a little bit too hot for the runners.”
This year, a portion of the proceeds from the entry fees for the 5K and bike ride is going to a new program in Robeson County called Girls on Track, Billingsley said. The national program teaches life skills and physical fitness to girls in grades 6 through 8, and is currently being offered to students at Littlefield Middle School.
“Several of the Road Runners wanted to get this program into the county,” Billingsley said. “Hopefully the program will eventually expand into other schools.”
Billingsley said two girls who participate in the program took part in Saturday’s 5K. One of the participants, 11-year-old Sarah McVicker, took third place in her age category.
Monica McVicker, nutrition program director for the Robeson County Health Department and county liaison for the Girls on Track program, said there are currently six girls at Littlefield Middle School participating in the program.
“This is a 10-week curriculum program that teaches the young girls self-esteem and how to deal with peer pressure,” she said. “The 10-week program finishes with a 5K race.”
The Chevy by the Levy began 10 years ago when the event’s organizers, Jeff Neelon and Maria Parker, approached Jerry Johnson Chevrolet, now Lumberton Chevrolet, and asked the dealership if it would sponsor a fall running event similar to, but not exactly like, the annual Rumba to the Lumber.