Downtown Durham has acquired a feverish love of running, and to borrow from Christopher Walken’s famous turn on Saturday Night Live, the only cure may be, “a little more cowbell.”
Around 1,500 runners will take the streets of Durham this Saturday morning for the Bull City Running Company’s eighth annual Running of the Bulls 8K run.
The scenic, 4.97 mile course will wind through the historic and revitalized neighborhoods of downtown Durham and finish with a lap on the warning track inside the historic Durham Athletic Park, where runners will receive a special memento.
“This year, to celebrate eight years ‘running,’ we have a custom finisher’s cow bell which runners will receive as they enter the stadium,” said Kim Page, co-founder and co-owner (with husband Jason) of the Bull City Running Company.
Page also noted that the race serves as the state’s USA Track and Field 8K Championship.
“As the 8K championship, it brings out elite runners that smoke through the course at under a 5-minute (mile) pace,” Page said, “It’s great for the community to see talent like that running that fast.”
While the race may not offer the same elements of danger found at the running of actual bulls each summer in Pamplona, Spain (“There are no live bulls at our version,” Page quipped), the local race has certainly made some noise in the Durham community over the past eight years, even without the cowbells.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve watched a city transform before our eyes,” Page said, “and it’s events like this that have helped bring people to the downtown area.”
“The community has grown – the running community in particular. They’ve helped us grow over the past eight years, and it’s brought people back year after year. It’s become something a lot of people mark their calendar for.”
Eight years ago, there was nothing of this size running through some of the most iconic, historical, and revitalized sections of downtown Durham, Page said. “The idea of being able to finish with a lap on the warning track of the old, historic Durham Bulls stadium was just a special touch.”
Page said that the race has grown each year.
“The growth has been incremental,” she said. “Our first year, we were just under 400 runners, and now we sell out at 1,500 runners every year. Unfortunately, we have to cap it every year due to the size of the venue. The old Durham Bulls stadium just can’t accommodate a crowd bigger than that with all of the post-race festivities.”
Established in September 2008, the Bull City Running Company’s retail store is located in the Southpoint Crossing Shopping Center.
In addition to the Running of the Bulls 8K, Bull City stages such races as the Uwharrie Mountain Trail Runs, the Eno River Run, the Occoneechee Speedway Relay, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Challenge. Bull City Running also sponsors running clinics and training programs and its own Bull City Track Club.
Saturday’s race course provides runners with a scenic tour of historic downtown Durham.
“It’s a loop course that runs through downtown, along Main Street, through Trinity Park and Watts, and it comes back along the American Tobacco district and then back down Main Street to the finish,” Page said. “There are more than a few hills though, and we have our own version of ‘Heartbreak Hill,’ at around mile 2½ as you come back past the stadium. It’s pretty brutal.
Runners will be treated to a pre-race ceremony featuring a National Anthem sung by American Idol contestant Adam Decker, now a Grammy Award Nominee with his band “Spaceship Days.”
Page said the post-race fun inside the old Durham Bulls stadium begins with “a little more cowbell,” but keeps going.
“We’ve got a DJ, the award ceremonies, and a number of local vendors giving out food and drinks,” she said. “We have the Fullsteam Brewery, Relay Foods, Kind Bars. Smoothie King is there with samples, and we’ve got a coffee bar compliments of Brooks. But we also have a chip-timed lap around the stadium warning track for the kids with Wool E. Bull.”
Next up for the Bull City Running Company is its inaugural Shot in the Dark 6K on the American Tobacco Trail on Aug. 27. Rather than celebrate speed, the race will measure how well runners can actually predict their pace (without a race watch).
In the meantime, there’s still time to sign up to run or volunteer at Saturday’s Running of the Bulls 8K. Online registration remains open until 11:59 p.m. Thursday via bullcityrunning.com.
For more information, call the Bull City Running Company at 919-265-3904.
Page said the event will reprise its award winning t-shirts, but the bell giveaway is one of very few changes to this year’s race.
“We always look to improve events, but we’re also pretty dialed-in,” she said. “Things are going well, and people keep looking forward to the race. Some of the magic is not to (change) too much.”