Much like any competitive race, the Mayberry Half Marathon on Saturday 10km and 5km at Mount Airy produced a slew of winners – but arguably the community as a whole took home the biggest prize.
“This event is tremendous for our sports tourism efforts here in Mount Airy,” said Darren Lewis, director of city parks and recreation, on Saturday morning as he stood near the starting line for the trio of races on downtown North Main Street.
Minutes later, nearly 300 runners hit the sidewalk in earnest for the half marathon (13.1 mile) portion of the event, while those in the 10 km (6.2 miles) and 5 km (3.1 miles) races were put to their use in one staggered format waited.
Despite temperatures in the upper 30s that welcomed the first race to start at 8 a.m., there were more than 800 runners in total, whose presence benefited not just local parks and recreation areas but the city as a whole, Lewis said.
This was a particularly welcome development for two facets of the local economy that have suffered from the pandemic, catering and accommodation. This was made more difficult by the Mayberry event not happening in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“All of the restaurants were extremely busy,” said Lewis, who also serves as the interim city manager, of the extra traffic on Friday night caused by the influx of participants for the Mayberry Half Marathon, 10km and 5km.
They came from far and wide – “from twenty different states at the moment,” he said as registration resumed.
The impact has also been made in the hotel sector, including the Hampton Inn on Rockford Street, Lewis added as he shared reports from Leise Lynch, the general manager there.
“She said they were sold out,” he said.
With standard entry fees for runners between $ 25 and $ 60, depending on age and event, the Mayberry Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K generated well over $ 20,000, with proceeds typically used for local parks and recreational programs.
Nearby competitors stand out
Together with the economic victory for the community, the meeting on Saturday gave local athletes an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
Although the participants came from many states, the top male and female finishers of the half marathon were local people.
Eli Roberson, 29, of Stuart, Virginia, was the overall winner of the 13.1-mile event with a time of one hour, 20 minutes and 48 seconds – a pace of 6:10 per mile.
“Well, we started out pretty conservatively,” said Roberson of the trail, which has often been described as flat and fast.
“I thought I had a comfortable lead,” he said of the gap between him and runner-up Chuck Inman, another Virginia runner of Chesapeake.
But Roberson realized Inman was getting closer “and really had to push it,” he said as he took one final kick to get across the finish line 11 seconds ahead of Inman.
It was Robertson’s first Mayberry half marathon.
Megan Ballentine, 41, from Mount Airy, who took part in her first ever half marathon, turned out to be the best female finisher on Saturday with a time of one hour, 37 minutes and 55 seconds.
That was good for 23rd place overall.
Marshall Love, 17, from Concord, won the 10K race with a time of 35 minutes and 55 seconds.
Maleah Pinyan, 33, from Salisbury, was the front runner among women and fourth in the overall standings with 39 minutes and 7 seconds.
The 5K winner was another local resident, Kevin Pack, 25, from Dobson, whose time was 17 minutes and 32 seconds.
Sharon White, 58, of Lenoir City, Tennessee, was the best female finisher at 11:57 pm and was 22nd overall.
Perhaps the most notable example of Saturday’s sport and tourism merging was the clothes Vanessa Martin of Charleston, West Virginia selected for the half marathon.
Martin came in an MP’s uniform that Barney Fife could have worn on “The Andy Griffith Show” – with her ensemble also with a holster, badge and hat.
While the television series’ continued popularity with the local often draws many people to the city, Martin decided to combine this with her participation in the half marathon.
“It’s Andy Griffith – it’s the Mayberry race, baby,” said the longtime fan of the show, explaining her choice of running clothes. “This is the first time that I drive this race.”
And Lewis hinted that someone wearing a deputy uniform was also a first for the run.
Forty-eight-year-old Martin, who works for the Konica copy company, wasn’t just there on Saturday to provide weird relief – she’s a seasoned runner with a long list of half-marathons on her résumé.
“This is my third in five weeks,” she said of the event on Saturday.
The Mayberry Half Marathon on Saturday, 10km and 5km, drew almost as many runners as the last one, which was celebrated 12th time.
Lewis said there were challenges to revive the race after being canceled in 2020.
He explained that additional marketing was put into this year’s event, which also ran into an obstacle as other races, usually held in the spring, were canceled in early 2021 as the pandemic continued.
“So everyone moved their dates to this fall,” said Lewis of the competition the Mayberry Half Marathon, 6 miles and 3 miles from other areas, had.
Once again a happy result was achieved with “Mayberry”.