Similar to any competitive race, Saturday’s Mayberry Half Marathon, 10K and 5K at Mount Airy produced an array of winners, but the community as a whole arguably took home the biggest prize.

“This event is huge for our sport tourism efforts here at Mount Airy,” City Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis said on Saturday morning as he stood near the start line for the trio of shopping on North Main Street in downtown.

Minutes later, nearly 300 runners hit the curb for good for the half-marathon (13.1 mile) portion of the event, while those in the 10 km (6.2 miles) and 5 km races (3.1 miles) awaited their turn in a staggered format.

Despite temperatures over 30 hailing the start of the first race at 8 a.m., more than 800 runners participated in total, whose presence not only benefited local parks and recreation, but the city as a whole, Lewis said.

It was a particularly welcome development for two facets of the local economy that suffered during the pandemic, food and accommodation establishments. This was made worse by the fact that the Mayberry event did not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“All the restaurants were extremely busy,” said Lewis, who also serves as interim city manager, of the extra Friday night traffic generated by the influx of participants for the Mayberry 10k Half Marathon and 5 km.

They had come from near and far – “twenty different states right now,” he said as recording continued.

The impact has also been made with the hotel industry, including the Hampton Inn on Rockford Street, Lewis added, relaying reports from Lenise Lynch, the general manager there.

“She said they were almost full,” he said.

With standard entry fees for runners ranging from $ 25 to $ 60 depending on the age and event involved, the Mayberry Half Marathon, 10K and 5K generated well over $ 20,000, with the proceeds generally being used for local parks and recreation programs.

Competitors nearby excellent

In addition to the community’s economic victory, Saturday’s rally made local athletes stand out.

Although the contestants came from many states, the best men and women for the half marathon were people close to home.

Eli Roberson, 29, of Stuart, Va., Was the overall winner of the 13.1 mile event with a time of one hour, 20 minutes and 48 seconds – a pace of 6:10 per mile.

“Well we started off pretty conservatively,” Roberson said of negotiating the often described as flat and fast course that started downtown, headed for Riverside Park, then continued along. of the city’s greenway system before returning to the park.

“I thought I had a comfortable lead,” he said of the distance between himself and runner-up Chuck Inman, another runner from Virginia from Chesapeake.

But Roberson realized that Inman was getting closer “and he had to really push him,” he said of one last kick to finish 11 seconds ahead of Inman.

It was Roberson’s first Mayberry Half Marathon.

Megan Ballentine, 41, of Mount Airy, who was competing in her very first half marathon, was the best woman on Saturday with a time of one hour, 37 minutes and 55 seconds.

It was good for 23rd place overall.

Marshall Love, 17, of Concord, won the 10k race with a time of 35 minutes and 55 seconds.

Maleah Pinyan, 33, of Salisbury, finished first in the women’s and fourth overall with a time of 39 minutes and 7 seconds.

The 5K winner was fellow local resident Kevin Pack, 25, of Dobson, whose time was 17 minutes and 32 seconds.

Sharon White, 58, of Lenoir City, Tennessee, was the top female at 23:57 and 22nd overall.

“Deputy” participates

Perhaps the most notable example of the fusion of sports and tourism showcased on Saturday is the outfit Vanessa Martin of Charleston, West Virginia chose to run the half marathon.

Martin came dressed in an assistant uniform that could have been worn by Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” – with his ensemble also including a pistol holster, badge and hat.

While the continued popularity of the TV series featuring the native of the area is often what draws many people to town, Martin chose to mix that up with his participation in the half marathon.

“It’s Andy Griffith – it’s Mayberry racing, baby,” the show’s longtime fan said, explaining her choice of running clothes. “It’s the first time I’ve done this race.

And Lewis said someone wearing a deputy’s uniform was a first for the race as well.

However, Martin, 48, who works for copier company Konica, was not on site Saturday just to provide comedic relief – she’s a seasoned runner with a long list of half-marathons on her resume.

“This is my third in five weeks,” she said of Saturday’s event.

Successful return

Saturday’s Mayberry Half Marathon, 10k and 5k drew almost as many runners in total as the last 12th annual event in 2019, 822, which is the all-time attendance record.

Lewis said there are challenges in resuscitating the race after it was canceled in 2020.

He explained that additional marketing had been used for this year’s event, which also encountered a hurdle due to the cancellation of other races normally held in the spring in early 2021 as the pandemic persisted.

“So everyone moved their dates back to this fall,” Lewis said of the competition the Mayberry Half Marathon, 10K and 5K faced in other areas.

Once again, a happy ending was achieved in “Mayberry”.