On a surprisingly cool Saturday morning in the Mississippi Delta, around 200 racers were ready to take off in the 40th annual 300 Oaks Road Race.
Whether it was the 10K or 5K runs, the 5K walk or the 1-mile fun run, it seemed people were ready to shake off the COVID-19 quarantine stagnation and get moving down the streets of Greenwood.
“It is not that big of a difference, but it is smaller,” said 10K runner Jacy Surrell, noting the amount of participants.
This was Surrell’s second year competing in the run. She said she made the short trip from Grenada to take part in this “wonderful race,” even if that meant following a few extra COVID-19-related precautions.
“I actually kind of like it. There’s more space,” said Surrell as she looked at crowd.
Beth Stevens, Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said this amount of people was expected.
“The numbers are down, but we knew that was going to be the case,” she said. “We have a little bit over 200 people participating, and that is about half of what we normally have.”
The chamber, which hosts the event, had around 500 participants last year.
Stevens said even though there were fewer people involved, there was still a good blend of both locals and those traveling into town.
“People are really thankful this was still put on,” she said. “I had many people come up to me and thank me, saying that this is the first running event they’ve been able to do all year, or since the pandemic started.”
One person who experienced this was Shannon Steele, the best time overall female winner for the 10K.
“I feel great,” she said. “This was my first race since February. It is a great course, it is flat and the weather is good.”
Steele said she runs all the time, about 30 miles a week. She finished the race in just under 49 minutes with an average pace of 7 minutes, 53 seconds per mile.
The overall 10K male winner was Mischa McCray, who finished the race at around 43 minutes — the fastest time.
“I love having a race in my hometown,” he said. “It is good because I can just roll out of bed and head downtown to run. I don’t need to get a hotel or anything like I would for out-of-town races.”
McCray, who was part of the Westminster Presbyterian Church team, said he loves the comradery of the event, which he said is why he runs in the race every year.
With an impressive average pace of 6 minutes, 57 seconds per mile, McCray said he prepared for the race by running around 20 to 30 miles every week. After finishing the 10K, he was ready for a well-deserved meal from the post-race tent, which featured to-go burgers, hot dogs, chips and beverages.
One participant said she plans to compete in 300 Oaks again next year so she can try to outdo her time from Saturday’s race.
Jemma Vikery of Carrollton came in second place for the female ages 30-39 division for the 5K run.
Vikery, who finished the race in about 27 minutes without any training, said she was “not impressed” with herself.
“I’ll be back next year,” she said with a determined grin as she was reunited with her dog, Tex, after the race.
Amidst the competitive spirit were also sparks of fellowship between friends, families and strangers.
Lawson Moody and Kevin Favela both ran in the 5K race. Complete strangers at the start of the race, they high-fived each other as they crossed the finish line together.
“We had just met,” Moody laughed.
Ernest Bedell and his grandson, Jaquavius Gibson, have been participating in the 5K walk for 10 years.
“It is just so fun, and there are some great people,” said Bedell, with a smile peeking out from under his mask.
And although there are always the 300 Oaks regulars, such as Bedell and his grandson, some new faces emerged at this year’s 1-mile fun run.
“I’m excited to run,” said 6-year-old Chris Phillips, who was participating in the event for the first time. “I am excited to see who wins some awards, too.”
• Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AdamBakst_GWCW