As Holly Springs continues to grow, new organizations come alive and add to the fabric of the community every year. The Holly Springs Run Club (HSRC) is no exception.
Back in 2014, Mark Campbell was on a long run through town with a couple of friends when they noticed how many runners there were out doing the same thing. They decided to create a “Second Saturday” group run to foster friendships and the love of running and advertised themselves through a Facebook page called “Holly Springs NC Runners.”
The response to the group run was so big that Campbell created a Facebook page for the Holly Springs Run Club, and before too long they had over 500 members online! They added an every-other-week Thursday run from Bombshell, and people kept asking for more. The goal of the group was to combine friendship and the love of running and just have fun with it.
Then, in 2015, a local runner was killed while on a run with his wife crossing Holly Springs Road, and the HSRC galvanized into a community – and one that has grown into quite a force in Holly Springs. The Thursday after Derek Davis’ death, the HSRC used the Thursday Bombshell run to memorialize Davis and pay tribute to his family. “I was completely overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up to run that night,” Campbell shares. “I expected a couple dozen people, but over 400 were there that night!” The run to the accident site to assemble a shoe tree in Derek’s memory was one that many HSRC members will never forget. A thunderstorm blew through, leaving everyone drenched, and cleared for a few moments at the site of the shoe tree when everyone got there, with a beautiful rainbow directly overhead.
That event spurred another huge growth spurt in the HSRC, with the resulting press over Davis and the memorial run. A couple of months later, the group decided to organize a formal 5K race and named it the Derek Davis Memorial 5K in Davis’ honor. Held in August every year, the 2017 race will be the third since Davis’s death. In the two years that have followed the tragedy, the HSRC has developed from a social group emphasizing friendship with a dose of running into a group that has become an icon in the community. There are now running events almost every day of the month, with different groups concentrating on different goals – distance, speed, fitness, endurance training, etc.
In addition to their daily group activities, which can be seen on their Facebook page, “Holly Springs Run Club,” the group has developed a philanthropic side that continues to grow every year. It started with the Derek Davis 5K and continued with Thanksgiving food drives, a Christmas gift drive, and the continuation of the shoe tree that is constructed during every Derek Davis 5K. The nearly 1,000 shoes that are collected are donated to a local organization every year that distributes them to people in need. Members of the group run in races around the country to raise funds for various organizations and initiatives with the full support of the other runners in the group.
In addition, the group has become devoted to sharing the love of running with those who cannot run, and have been working on a collection of special wheelchairs for use by disabled neighbors. In 2016, Mark Campbell and Brandon Rizzuti ran from the Virginia border to the South Carolina border to raise money for some of these chairs, which are provided through an organization called “Ainsley’s Angels.” Brandon uses one of the chairs to run, and although Campbell provided some help along with by pushing the chair, Rizzuti ran the entire way. The HSRC already has a few chairs (courtesy of Ainsley’s Angels), but Campbell and Rizzuti ran 163 miles over 4.5 days to help in that cause.
Also in 2016, the HSRC decided to launch its first half marathon, and according to race director Ryan
Monteleone, the event “exceeded all expectations!” Another effort by the HSRC to raise some funds and showcase all the best features of Holly Springs, Monteleone and his team sold out their first event a month and a half before the race with 850 participants. “Not sure how we pulled it off – if it was luck, if we were blessed, or if we were just good and didn’t know it,” Ryan muses. “But maybe it was a bit of all three.”
The event was designed, with the help of town officials and run club volunteers, to run through all the greenways, parks, and significant town sites in Holly Springs, and except for about a quarter of a mile, they accomplished that goal. Monteleone was continually amazed when he ran through town at how runable the community is, with its network of greenways and parks, and wanted to show that feature off with this event. “It’s a beautiful route, and we designed the entire event to be a race FOR runners BY runners.”
Starting and ending the race at the N. Main Athletic Complex allowed them to use the bathrooms at the stadium, and between that and all the park facilities they ran though, there was no need for porta-potties – something many runners dislike about big races elsewhere. Another great feature is that starting the race at the front of the stadium allowed for spectator viewing that could see the last mile of the race as athletes returned to the finish line. Offering free daycare by race sponsor Active Tracks was a very important event benefit, and Bombshell Beer Company brewed a special release called “Runners High” that was only available the week of the race. The goal was to create an event, not just a race, and the group feels their goals were achieved.
Because the event was so successful in its first year, the HSRC was able to donate $15,000 to the Holly Springs Parks & Rec Department, and an announcement about what those funds will be used for will happen in the very near future. An additional $5,000 was donated to the Holly Springs Kiwanis Club for their annual youth events. The remaining proceeds were used to help the HSRC file for nonprofit status with the IRS.
The second annual half marathon is coming up this fall, on Saturday, November 18, and the group is working hard to add even more activities and features to the event. The first major news is that the half marathon will now be part of a Holly Springs Run Club series that also includes the Derek Davis 5K, and the Holly Springs Police Department’s 10K in September. Monteleone is excited to offer the series and says that those who complete all three events will be presented with a separate, special medal at the half marathon event!
The other breaking news is that there will be a “race within the race” feature in the half marathon called “Mulch Madness” – the stretch of the course that is on mulch around Bass Lake will be timed separately and the winner of Mulch Madness will receive additional prizes for their efforts. In addition to new race features, the HSRC is planning a Race Festival from 11am-3pm after the race in downtown Holly Springs with live music, a beer garden, vendors and food trucks. After the Jolly Springs Race Fest, an after party will be held at Bombshell Beer Company, making the event a day-long activity for local residents.
Already in the works is an ultra marathon for Winter 2018, which will be a timed event where runners run as far as they can in either 6 or 12 hours. Ultra marathons are any race that exceeds the 26.2 of an official marathon, and capping the time limit for a race allows organizers to better plan their resources.
Registration for the half marathon in November has already begun, but the HSRC expects between 1200-1300 participants this year and expects to sell out again before the event. Athletes can register at www.hollyspringshalfmarathon.com, and anyone reading this article can get a $5 discount on the event by using promo code SUBURBANLIVING17.
Founder Mark Campbell is in awe of how big and how fast this small running club has grown, and its potential as a philanthropic force in the community. “As a founder of the group, it has exceeded my expectations in every aspect – social, charitable, educational,” Campbell says. “People have worked so hard to create an atmosphere that is creative and supportive, and it’s such a surprise that we’re over 1600 members! I never imagined that the club would be this big!”