According to ancient etchings, charcoal drawings on local cave walls and chalk arrows on Carrboro’s historic roadways, the Carrboro 10K road race, by its many names, has had a circuitous existence.
It is thought to have begun during the 1980s, confirmed by the fossil footprints of waffle-soled shoes.
The Familias del Pueblo 10K (6.2-mile) rekindled the race’s presence around 17 years ago in support of the Festival del Pueblo, which established the same race course as was traversed by nearly 600 runners in Cardinal Track Club’s Carrboro 10K last Saturday.
However, following the Festival del Pueblo’s migration to Raleigh, the Cardinal Track Club adopted the 10K and kept it in Carrboro, preserving a racing distance that Dick Forbis calls an endangered species.
“The 10K is such a great race, and when I was running, 40 years ago, 10K’s were all over the place,” said Forvis, who directs Cardinal Timing Services. “Now, you’ve got to hunt for a good 10K to run.”
The historic quality of the enduring Carrboro 10K makes it all the more remarkable when runners “make history,” as did women’s overall winner Michelle Langan last weekend.
Having set a course record last July in Cardinal’s Four on the Fourth four-mile run, 2016 Olympic marathon hopeful Michelle Langan scorched the 10K course this past Saturday and set a new course record (35:30.66).
“It was actually my high school teammate who had the record before,” Langan said, laughing. “Now I’ve got to break it to her.”
Langan said she was paced by her running watch more than by other runners.
“I just watched the Garmin,” she said. “I never really run (according to) the competition; I just sort of run my own race.”
“It was hilly,” she added, “but the course support was great out there.”
Following Langan across the line were second-place female finisher Lorraine Young (36:57.91) and perennial frontrunner Marley Burns (37:51.17).
Among this year’s top male finishers was 10K overall winner Brock Baker (32:21.46), with an improvement of nearly a full minute relative to his 2013 mark.
Second-place finisher Jonathan Peters (31:59.32) and Bobby Torphy (33:07.66) rounded out the men’s top three places.
“This was my second-fastest time on this course ever,” Baker said, “so I was pleased with it.”
Winning the masters men title was Durham’s Paul Francis (37:17. 58), ahead of Shan Guo (37:41.67) and Paul Sexton (37:57.16).
Atop the women’s masters podium was Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo (44:49.74), followed by Ilona Jaspers (45:44.74) and Sharon Shofer (48:08.74).
While Forbis contended that the 10K was a nice — and oft-overlooked — distance to bridge the gap between innumerable 5K road races and the more grueling 10-mile and half-marathon distances, the Carrboro 10K often bridges the transition from summer to fall as well.
University of North Carolina climatologist William Schmitz provided race organizers with weekly forecasts, said Brian White, who stepped in as interim race director upon the birth of Kirsten Pate’s son Landon just two weeks ago.
“When we got here this morning for the on-site set-up, it was actually kind of toasty,” White explained, “but he said it was going to drop 10 degrees over the next two hours. That’s what it’s been doing, so now it’s nice and cool, sunny and beautiful.”
While some may have felt the discernible drop in temperature and humidity during the course of the race, it was lost on race leaders.
“Oh,” Baker said, chuckling, “the temperature dropped?”
“I was hoping for even cooler weather based on the forecasts,” Langan said, “but it was still beautiful.”
The Carrboro 10K marked the second event in Cardinal’s 10th annual Tour de Carrboro three-race series.
The Four on the Fourth began the tour on July 4, and it ends with the popular Gallop and Gorge 8K (5-mile) run, to be held on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 27.
The Cardinal Track Club is a Carrboro / Chapel Hill-based organization dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of running at all levels.
Pate, who attended the race with son Landon in tow, said the 10K was possibly the easiest of Cardinal’s three-race Tour to plan.
“This middle race is sort of the simplest, especially because there are no changes this year,” she said. “We’re already into the swing of things. Brian jumped in as the interim race director, and everything’s been easy. The ducks were already in a row.”
All three races in Le Tour de Carrboro series benefit a variety of causes: the Optimists’ Club of Chapel Hill, the Arc of Orange County, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, the Get Real and Heel Breast Cancer Program, the UNC Wellness Medical Fitness Scholarship, and TABLE — a non-profit organization bringing college students and community volunteers together to help feed hungry children locally.
In 2013, the Cardinal Track Club distributed $45,000 among its partner organizations, which received $7,500 each.
Coming up for both Baker and Langan will be the Outer Banks (OBX) Half-Marathon on Nov. 9.
“Two years ago, I ran a 31:27 here and then ran a 66:33 there at OBX,” Baker said, “so I’m hoping to do the same or even run a little faster.”
“I think I’m going to run the Bull City Half-Marathon,” Langan said, “and then OBX.”
Next up for the Cardinal Track Club will be the Gallop and Gorge 8K on Thanksgiving morning.
“The Gallop and Gorge has a slight route change in store this year,” Pate said.
“We’re starting and finishing on Weaver Street right in front of the (Weaver Street) Market. It’s going to be a smoother course, and it’s not wildly different. Our after-race party will be in the Fleet Feet parking lot, and there will be race parking in the parking deck.”
And as for the future of the venerable 10K distance, Forbis said they demand an intensity other races do not.
“Some people who run 10K’s are often looking to move on to 10-milers and half-marathons,” he said. “A lot of 5K runners are just happy to be out there running the 5Ks. But with the 10K, you really have to be focused.”
So 5K’s may be more plentiful, and longer races may be “bigger,” but if the Cardinal Track Club has anything to do with it, the 10K distance — and Carrboro 10K — should be around for quite a few more epochs.
After all, it’s not always the species in greater numbers or greater sizes that survive.