November 30, 2013

Doug Hawley: Ringing bells for runners

— There is a uniqueness to the annual Silver Bell Sprint race which receives the focus Friday for the 11th time in downtown Dalton.

For one thing, this event always has taken place on a Friday night, helping to kick off the area Christmas season. It is a winning formula.

A record number of almost 800 participants crossed the finish line last year. The feature 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) had 632 finishers and the preliminary one-miler logged 162 for 794, officially.

Perhaps for the first time ever, the event occurred on the last Friday of November in 2012. It now goes back to the first Friday of December.

Although last year was successful, you cannot help but wonder about the conflict of “Black Friday.” Consider that some big-time shoppers might have been shopping for those big deals instead of running for honors.

With the event now not in conflict with Black Friday, another record crowd appears likely.

City Park Elementary School again provides the setting. The 5K is scheduled for 7 p.m., following the one-miler at 6.

With a Friday night road race a rarity in our area, there is no competition from other events. That hardly is true on Saturday mornings when most races take place.

Also, adults might find it more convenient to cap off their work weeks by making immediate plans for the Friday night race rather than going somewhere else the next morning. The same thing can be said for the children concluding their school weeks.

Also, many people journey on Saturday to sites other than races.

Most people for the Silver Bell Sprint will be content with their long-sleeve T-shirts and silver bells to wear on their shoes. However, there always are some elite contenders

Isaac Pacheco, a freshman runner at Dalton State College, claimed top honors the previous two years while a North Murray High student. His winning time last year was 16 minutes, 14 seconds — a 5:14 per mile average.

Julie Simmons, a 30-year-old elementary school teacher from Chattanooga, led the females in 19:30.

Others will compete for accolades in the various age divisions — both males and females.

Like so many races, proceeds will aid charity. This beneficiary is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Georgia Mountains.

The event concludes the 13-part series of the Runner of the Year (ROY) competition as coordinated by the Carpet Capital Running Club (CCRC). A different scoring is deciding the results this year.

In the past, ROY recipients were determined through age divisions. Not so this time.

On an age/gender scale that compares times to world records, there will be 10 winners. Males and females are grouped together.

Even for the older participants, the motto has been “Show up, and cross the line.” You always get points. Distances range from two miles to a 13.1 half-marathon.

Those 10 top finishers will be honored in January of 2014 at CCRC’s annual banquet.

ONE WEEK LATER: On Saturday morning, Dec. 14, an area road race is available for those runners seeking a longer distance. This comes in the form of the 26th annual Carpet Capital 10-Miler at Varnell Elementary School.

This CCRC-sponsored event serves as the Road Runners Club of America state championship race for 10 miles. It is one of the few certified 10-mile courses in Georgia with numerous state age group records having been set in the past.

A preliminary 5K run also is available in action which begins at 9 a.m.

Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at