Despite some hurdles, despite lingering effects of a pandemic, the Twin City Track Club's Beat the Heat 5K on Saturday night in Winston-Salem promises to deliver a key night of road racing in the Triad.
More than 550 runners are signed up for the event, sponsored by Cook Medical. Most will compete in the 5K at 7 p.m. Then 22 men and 14 women, at 8 p.m., will chase the titles and bonuses in USATF North Carolina's state road race championship. If you can't attend, you'll be able to watch the elite race at the High Point Athletic Club Instagram account, @high_point_ac.
Given that registration opened only two months before the race, given what 2020 brought, the numbers are strong. The 2019 event had 611 finishers and 38 elite runners.
"We're pleased with the response," race director Er Ralston writes via email. "We're doing everything we can to make it an enjoyable race experience for those who participate."
Among the competitors to watch:
Below, see a video from race organizers with Donnie Cowart that was prepared before the virtual 2020 Beat the Heat 5K:
• Donnie Cowart: Defending champion; ran 14:14 at the Rotary Club of Kernersville Fourth of July 5K; will pursue the state record of 14:08.
• Josh Izewski: ZAP Fitness runner in Blowing Rock; won The Bear, a 5-mile race with about 1,500 feet of gain on Grandfather Mountain, in 31:50.7 on July 8.
• Brandon Hudgins: Broke two Ultimate Runner records in June; finished second in 14:37 at Kernersville.
• Matthew and Jonathan Martin: Twins who went sub-15 at the China Grove 5K on June 4. Matthew's 14:48 was good for second place behind Cowart (14:21), and Jonathan ran 14:50 to take third.
• Kate Sanborn: Ran a 16:42 5K in 2020; qualified for 2020 marathon Olympic trials; like Ralston, a owns a degree in statistics from N.C. State.
• Ryen Frazier: Former N.C. State runner in her first road 5K after college; 16:32 on track at Virginia Challenge in April.
• Jonna Strange: Finished fifth in Beat the Heat elite race in 2019 as a 17-year-old.
• Andie Cozzarelli: Former N.C. State runner who is a five-time top-five finisher and who won in 2015.
The course, used for the Turkey Strut 5K on Thanksgiving Day, will be mostly new for this race. The start-finish line will be at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds because of stadium upgrades taking place at Wake Forest's Truist Field.
Good money is at stake in the elite race: $1,000 to the men's and women's winners, with $500 for second place. Among the bonuses available are $1,000 for setting a USATF-recognized state record, held by Scott Dvorak, 14:08 in 1997, and by Laura Mykytok, 15:50 in 1994.
A list of runners signed up for the state championship, with a factoid as available from competitors and provided by the Beat the Heat staff's Kristin Weisse:
• Harrison Brown, 27, Greensboro
• Justin Burrows, 35, Apex
• Evan Bush, 23 Charlotte (favorite pre-race meal is sushi and favorite workout is hill repeats)
• Christopher Capps, 30, Huntersville (his favorite trail is the Iluka Coastal Path in Western Australia; "gorgeous ocean vistas of the Indian Ocean just north of Perth, Australia").
• Beck Classey, 21, Denver (running gear he can't go without is his hair tie)
• Donnie Cowart, 35, Winston-Salem (favorite activities are games that take him back to his childhood, such as dodgeball or ultimate Frisbee)
• Hazen Harvell, 17, Summerfield
• Rylan Pincher, 24, North Wilkesboro (favorite post-race meal is a tray from Cook Out).
• Brandon Hudgins, 34, Jamestown (post-race food choice is pizza; "any other answer is wrong")
• Josh Izewski, 31, Blowing Rock (likes the Beat the Heat because of ... wait for it ... "Honestly the heat. I always run well in it so I feel like I have an advantage.")
• Matthew Jordan-Steele, 27, Durham
• Sam Lloyd-Perks, 25, Winston-Salem (was featured on this site in the Runners profile on Friday; click here to read about him)
• Jonathan Martin, 25, China Grove (favorite activity outside of running is eating grilled cheese with his girlfriend)
• Matthew Martin, 25, Charlotte (favorite post-race meal is a pint from Ben and Jerry’s)
• Per Kristian Marek, 56, Winston-Salem
• Justin Pfruender, 41, Winston-Salem (gear he can't go without: "my $8 sunglasses from Lidl")
• Luke Prothero, 24, Charlotte
• Aneesh Rahangdale, 23, Chapel Hill
• Alec Scheerer, 24, Huntersville (hobbies including playing guitar, gaming, traveling to amusement parks)
• Jordan Schilit, 30, Charlotte
• Zachary Vaslow, 36, Greensboro
• Wil Zahorodny, 31, High Point
• Ericka Charles, 32, Durham (loves peanut butter, doesn't eat peanuts)
• Melissa Chiti, 55, Durham (favorite race is the Blue Ridge Relay)
• Andie Cozzarelli, 30, Raleigh (during a vacation in Rome, ran along the Tiber River, which goes through the city and passes the Olympic Stadium)
• Anna Edwards, 13, Advance
• Ryen Frazier, 24, Raleigh ("If running didn’t work out I wanted to play basketball. Or play piano for a band, that's really the dream.")
• Natalie Lawrence, 39, Kernersville
• Kiley Lloyd-Perks, 21, Winston-Salem
• Donna Mills-Honarvar, 46, Burlington
• Rachel Rice, 41, Durham (celebrates her birthdays with a 10 x mile workout on the track as part of a marathon build)
• Kelley Riffenburgh, 27, Durham (favorite trail is through redwood forests in northern California)
• Kate Sanborn, 23, Raleigh (favorite post-race snack is "a frozen Kit-Kat/gas station ice cream sandwich; also runs a runner fueling food Instagram, @run.to.the.beet, where she posts recipes to try to inspire others to love food and see it as a creative space)
• Jonna Strange, 19, Statesville (likes a hamburger and milkshake after a race)
• Meaghan Vaslow, 40, Greensboro
• Hannah Wilson, 28, Charlotte (likes to hike with her husband and their two dogs and to flyfish in the mountains)