Although it’s one of the three oldest events of its kind in the state, Greenwood’s 300 Oaks Road Race continues to draw hundreds of participants each year.
“To be around 39 years old and still be successful, that makes us feel really good about what we are doing,” said Beth Stevens, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce.
The 300 Oaks race is one the chamber’s longtime signature events.
The race, which will be held next Saturday, includes 10K and 5K runs, a 5K walk and a 1-mile color fun run down Grand Boulevard.
“This year, we’re mixing up the course routes a bit,” said Stevens. “Change is good, and we’re offering a change of scenery this year, including the Rail Spike Park trail on the 10K route. We also have earlier start times this year to accommodate everyone who’s wanting to make it to their favorite Saturday college football game, wherever that may be.”
The 10K run begins at 7:30 a.m., the 5K run starts at 7:45 a.m., and the 5K walk starts at 8 a.m. The fun run will follow at about 9:30 a.m., or upon completion of the other races.
The 5K and 10K races will start and finish at the boat landing near the city arboretum between the Veterans and Keesler bridges.
The 5K races will exit the boat landing, make a right onto East Claiborne Avenue and a left onto Weightman Street and continue onto Azalea Street, making a left on McArthur Avenue. Racers will continue running west on McArthur to where it becomes Rosemary Lane and then take a left to run south on Grand Boulevard. Runners will make a left onto East Claiborne and return to the boat landing.
The 10K race will follow the 5K route for the first 3 miles. Rather than turning left onto East Claiborne from Grand Boulevard, the race participants will continue running south, crossing the Keesler Bridge and making a left onto East Front Street.
Runners will travel south on Main Street until they reach Rail Spike Park, where they will continue on the trail until they reach Seventh Street, making a right. Then, they will take Strong Avenue and Chambers Street to get onto River Road, where they will trek east until reaching the Keesler Bridge to go north and return to the boat landing, which is where the post-race party will be held this year.
Although the party’s location has changed, “We’ll still be doing the same cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs, live entertainment and awards,” said Stevens.
There will also be new water station locations:
• The west corner of East Harding Avenue and Weightman Street (runners will be going north)
• Grand Boulevard, at Bankston Elementary School’s front parking lot/bus circle on the east side of Grand
• The intersection of East Claiborne Avenue and Grand Boulevard on the east side of the boulevard
• Rail Spike Park, behind Davis Elementary School
• The corner of Chambers Street and River Road, which is at the back corner parking lot of Greenwood Leflore Hospital next to the river
• The finish line at the boat landing
A new addition to what the runners will receive is a wooden dog tag featuring this year’s 300 Oaks logo, which will be awarded to all who cross the finish line.
This year, participants also have shirt options when registering. A 300 Oaks cotton T-shirt is included with the registration fee, but participants have the choice to upgrade to one of the new dri-fit tech shirts or camouflage racerback tank tops — both in gray. The upgrade costs an additional $5. Those participating in the 10K, however, will receive the regular dri-fit shirt at no extra charge.
Stevens said each year the chamber looks for small changes it can make to improve its events.
“Every year, we try to find one little tweak that we can do to make our event just little bit better,” she said.
“We listen to our participants and get feedback from them to see what can we do to make this better, and we look at that to see if it’s feasible. We try to make some little tweaks every year to keep it fresh and interesting. You can never get complacent. You have to always be willing to look at ways to improve, and ways you can make things better.”
Those consistent small adjustments made each year are part of the reason why the 39-year-old event continues to be successful and was recently honored as one of the Top 5 Competitive Races in the state by Mississippi Magazine, ranked just under the No. 1 winner, Jackson’s Mississippi Blues Marathon.
“That’s the first time our event has been named a standout among so many races around our state. That lets us know we’re doing something right,” said Stevens. “That’s a big honor for us. Now, there are runs everywhere every weekend, and to have that longevity and to have people around the state vote for it as one of the best is definitely a testament to our event.”
While the race also draws many out-of-towners, it also has a lot of local participation.
“It’s definitely a heavily attended local event,” said Stevens.
One reason is because of the race’s team option, which also features a discount on the participant registration fee. Many Greenwood-area businesses, churches and organizations form teams to compete in the race.
“It’s a great opportunity for companies to promote a healthier lifestyle by getting their employees to participate,” said Stevens. “It’s a fun day of camaraderie while walking or running together.”
Currently 14 teams have signed up, and more than 300 participants have registered.
The race is also popular because it features several options — even some for those who are not runners but enjoy walking.
“Probably where we get the biggest participation is in the 5K walk race,” said Stevens. “Even if you’re not the competitive type or a runner, everybody loves to walk. You can get out for a brisk walk that morning, and you’ll be out there with several hundred other people — that’s part of the fun.”
Early registration discounts and online registration are available until midnight Thursday.
The 10K and 5K teams are required to pre-register online by Thursday. No team or family registrations are available on race day.
Participants who pre-register may pick up their race packets at the packet pickup and pre-race party, which will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday at the Hampton Inn. Late registration will also be available during the pre-race party.
On the morning of the race, packet pickup and registration will be located at the start and finish area at the boat landing between the bridges until race time begins at 7:30 a.m.
For more information or to register, visit www.300oaks.com or call the chamber at 453-4152.
Course maps can also be found online at the event website.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or email@example.com.