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David Freeze: Gotta Run

Winter Flight, 28 years ago

A lot of effort goes into NC’s oldest 8K and fourth oldest race of any distance. Last Sunday marked 37 years of Winter Flight’s existence. Only 411 registrants came to Salisbury from five states. I say “only” very lightly because it was the largest Winter Flight in ten years and currently the largest running event in Rowan.

One of Salisbury’s long-time runners, Lyn Boulter, moved to Ocean Isle Beach in January. When boxing up her things, Lyn found some extensive information that she had retained as co-race director of the 1992 Winter Flight. I found that information amazing, especially since serving as the 2020 WF director.

Back in 1992, there were two major races in NC during February, WF and another in Raleigh called the Run for the Roses 5K. Long before the current glut of races that every charity seems to have, Salisbury had one of the biggest and best races in the state. And yes, it was often held in very early February.

Here are some of the interesting figures from their record keeping, very well done and finely detailed. Major sponsors were Silver Eagle Distributors, the title sponsor, Thor-Lo and the Salisbury Rowan Merchants. Major expenses were Jim Young’s timing company from Raleigh, a huge amount of sweatshirts and long sleeve shirts, a sound system, a volunteer breakfast at Shoney’s, postage (before email and websites) and awards.

The 1992 race had almost 1200 runners, just off the 1400 for the biggest one ever. Newsletter records following the race say that members wanted to consider moving the race from Catawba College, add Pepsi as a major sponsor and attract 2,000 runners in 1993.

Income from sponsors, entry fees and sold concessions was just under $21,000. Entry fees made up over $12,000 and sponsors were $7,650 of that total. Concessions aren’t sold at today’s race but they were with some success in 1992. Total expenses were over $15,000. That Winter Flight raised just under $7,000, which mostly went to club expenses. Salisbury Rowan Runners was a much smaller club then, but a larger percentage of members were active regularly. Almost every member participated as a volunteer or runner and often both.

Flash forward to 2020, and some things were different while others remained the same. The same was especially interesting. We’re still at Catawba College, 28 years later. Sponsorship raised was almost the same, and the title sponsor was a beer provider. Trophies and awards were made by the Trophy House then and still were this year. Registration dollars lagged only slightly behind this year with almost 800 less participants.

On the different side, average registration was $12 in 1992 while average paid registration this year was a little over $32. A handful of sponsors participated in 1992, while 53 businesses supported the event this year.

For extra volunteers, the 1992 WF used the Lions Club while the recent event received major volunteer support from Rowan Helping Ministries. Total SRR, RHM and other volunteer and professional support this year was about 80 people. I expect it was similar in 1992.

Winter Fight 2020 was a great day again for Salisbury and also for Rowan Helping Ministries. All those sponsors, volunteers and participants came together in a big way. With just a small amount of final accounting remaining, Rowan Helping Ministries will receive a check in the neighborhood of $13,000 within the next 10 days. And already, planning is underway for the 38th annual event on January 31st, 2021. Hope to see you there! There is a distance and community celebration for everyone.

With one cancellation, we only have one race for February. The always fun Will Run for Food 5K is set for February 29th. The race at Centenary Methodist Church uses a fast course and supports packaging of dried meals for those in need. Check it out at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org