Thanksgiving is the perfect primer for a hectic Holiday season. We pack bags, brave highways and airports, and go toe-to-toe with loved ones (and semi-loved ones) before we ever carve up a turkey.
Maybe that’s what makes the Cardinal Track Club’s annual Gallop and Gorge 8K (5-mile) road race such a profound and poignant choice for runners. Amidst the harried pace of Thanksgiving, hundreds of athletes carve out a slice of their day and dedicate it to a harried pace on the streets of Carrboro before ever carving a turkey.
Now in its 18th year, the race has become a rite of passage for many local runners, and a Thanksgiving reunion for the local running “family.”
“This was a great event, even with a little damp weather,” said Dick Forbis, a co-founder of the Cardinal Track Club.
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The race featured a new start / finish line on Weaver Street.
“With the move, we lost some distance at the beginning and end of the course,” race director Kristin Pate explained, “but we added it back in through the Carrboro neighborhoods on a couple streets that we’d never run on before.”
“We hadn’t hosted the post-race festivities since we were located over at Carr Mill,” Fleet Feet Carrboro co-owner Brian White said, “so it’s great to have that back at the store, which has a great outdoor patio.”
Forbis said that “There’s always apprehension when you try a new course, because people are creatures of habit ... so we made sure we had a volunteer at every single turn.”
Navigating those turns ahead of the pack was the overall winner Andy Wackerwho set a G&G record with his time of 23:52.08, bettering a mark set in 2010 by Jack Bolas. Finishing in second place was former Bolas’s Chapel Hill High teammate Kent Pecora (25:17.24), with Kaleb Keyserling (25:25.92) rounding out the top three places.
Last Thursday’s race rekindled the old rivalry between Wacker, an alum of Pinecrest High School, and Chapel Hill High runners like Pecora and Bolas.
“It’s kind of funny, because Kent’s high school and mine in Pinehurst were sort of rivals,” Wacker said. “We battled it out a lot my junior year in high school.”
Now living and training in Boulder, Col., Wacker is a sponsored runner for Adidas.
Andy broke out pretty quickly,” Pecora said. “I decided to try to stay with him a little while, but … he’s in pretty good shape.”
The overall female winner was Joan Nesbit Mabe, 52 (31:26.47), who was a U.S. Olympian the same year the first Gallop and Gorge was run in Carrboro. Meredith Bazemore (32:30.82) captured the silver, while Leslie Morgan (33:03.07) earned bronze.
“The highlight of the day for me, though, was hearing Grace Tate sing the National Anthem. It was really beautiful,” Nesbit Mabe said. “I had a rough first mile, because it’s hard to run and be ‘verklempt’ at the same time.”
It was Rob Benjamin (28:38.82) atop the masters male podium, with Solomon Kobes (29:19.58) in second place and Kevin Nickodem (29:39.83) in third. Ilona Jaspers (24:27.84) took top honors among masters females, with JoAnna Younts (34:32.48) and Stacey Richardson (34:36.57) giving chase.
The Gallop and Gorge marked the final event in the 10th anniversary of Cardinal’s Tour de Carrboro three-race series. The Four on the Fourth road race was held in July, and October saw the Carrboro 10K race.
“After the race we honored the only two people that have run all the Tour races all ten years,” Pate said. “That’s all 30 races by Bernie Prabucki and Joan Boone.”
Prabucki said it has been an ongoing battle between the two to see who can outlast the other.
“For the Four on the Fourth (of July) race, I emailed her and told her they’d moved it to July 5,” he said, laughing.
The tour is likely to keep going strong with the tradition being taken up by so many young family members.
“It was my daughter Lizzie’s first Gallop and Gorge,” Nesbit Mabe said, “and she ran with a future Chapel Hill High School cross-country teammate.”
“It’s hard, but it was also fun to be able to actually run it after watching it all these years,” Lizzie Mabe, 13, said. “It’s cool, because I’ve grown as a runner, and I can actually do it now instead of just admiring everyone else doing it.”
A total turnout of 1,630 runners — a new high for the race — will allow Cardinal to meet its budget despite new expenses.
“The number of police and public works personnel involved has doubled,” Cardinal treasurer Meredith Bolon said, “but we also had over a couple hundred more registrants which off-sets those costs.”
The Tour benefits 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.