Race #32 – Hickory Crawdad Home Run Trot – Hickory NC – 05/16/09
I always have preconceived notions about how I think a race will be before I get there. Many times it’s been a bit of a letdown to find things to be not quite as expected. Not so with the Home Run Trot sponsored by the Hickory Crawdads, the Class A minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers. My wife Linda has had a problem with shin splints lately and hasn’t been able to run, but even she had fun at the Home Run Trot.
The weather was beautiful, which always helps, and the L.P. Frans Stadium, home of the Crawdads, has to be one of the most beautiful minor league stadiums in the country. As I write this I’m not sure how many runners were in the competitive 5k race, but I would guess probably 100 to 150. That would make for a fairly small race, but there were actually several hundred more runners as Girls on the Run of Catawba County also took part in the race. As you may know, Girls on the Run is a national program for girls ages 8 to 13 that encourages healthy living and self-respect through running. Seems like it’s working fine in Catawba County and it was great to watch all of these kids finish the race and receive a finishers medal at the finish line.
Speaking of the finish line, the highlight of this race and inspiration for the name “Home Run Trot” is that you finish by crossing home plate inside the stadium. I didn’t know what to expect, but what a surprise I had when I entered the stadium. The race had been on streets surrounding the ball park, then at the end the runners entered the stadium just past 3rd base and ran to home plate from there. As I entered the stadium I was pretty much alone. I’m not sure how far the nearest runner was ahead of me but he finished quite a bit ahead, and the nearest runner behind me was about 30 seconds back. To my surprise, there were probably at least 1,000 — maybe even 2,000 — people in the seats (mostly GOTR families I would guess), cheering runners on as they crossed the finish line. I think I was the 8th finisher overall in the race (23:01) and first in the old-guy-athon, and what a reception I received as I came to the finish line… you would have thought I just hit one out of the park!
All of the runners received two tickets to tonight’s baseball game, where the top male and female runners are also throwing out the first pitch, and those of us who came in first in our age groups received an official Crawdads baseball that was autographed by the entire team! The after-race food was good and included fresh strawberries and pastries from Panera Bread in addition to normal stuff like bananas, oranges, and bagels. The T-shirts were really nice and professionally designed with the cool Crawdads logo on the front and no advertising on the back.