Six years ago, the Big South Division I Athletic Conference, based in Charlotte, was looking for a way to make a difference in its community. After seeing a need for funding in middle school athletics, the Big South jumped at the opportunity to institute a 5K road race with proceeds benefiting local middle schools.
On Saturday, Oct. 17 at 8 a.m., an estimated 1,500 runners will take off in the sixth annual Big South 5K Road Race in south Charlotte’s Blakeney shopping center. Registration costs $25, and $20 of that will go directly toward a specified middle school in the area. When participants register online, they can select which middle school they would like to support. All middle schools in Union, Mecklenburg, Lancaster and York counties are eligible.
Funds will help athletic programs purchase items such as new equipment, jerseys and travel expenses.
“Back in 2010 when we started this, middle school athletics was hurting,” said Chad Cook, assistant commissioner with the Big South conference. “There was a lot of talk about eliminating different programs, and the race became a way for us to help keep athletics sustainable.”
More than 700 runners – including many middle school teams, teachers and school staff – participated in the race the first year. The event has since grown to more than 1,300 participants and counting. Cook said he anticipates exceeding $100,000 in money raised from the Big South 5K for middle school athletics after this year’s event.
“We’ve been really excited and encouraged by the growth we’ve seen,” Cook said. “A lot of middle schools get involved, and a lot of families in the area. Having it in Blakeney helps, because there’s also a strong running community there.”
A post-race party will be held for participants and guests after the 5K, which will kick off the ninth annual Blakeney Boo Bash. Cook said that even though the race is family friendly and will include many middle school-aged children, it’s also a great course for competitive runners.
“It’s a very fast course,” he said. “It’s definitely family friendly and most participants will be families, but it will also attract a lot of serious runners who are looking to PR.”