Dress ranged from track singlets and spandex to tutus and glow-in-the-dark necklaces at Baily Park last Friday night at 7. Music blared from the pre-race stage show of DJ Fish and Jai, while Mellow Mushroom and Foothills Brewing employees set up tables of pizza and beer.
This is the Moonlight Madness 5K + Fun Run, one of the largest 5K races in Winston-Salem and the only one at night, according to its website. Registration this year closed at over 1,200 participants, roughly 200 more than last year. Along with the 5K race, Moonlight Madness included a one mile Fun Run for kids and beginning runners. This year’s winner of the Fun Run was two-time champ ten-year-old Sam Deakins.
“It was really cool,” Sam said of his consecutive wins.
No stranger to races, Sam runs summer track and participates in about five races per year, his father explained. It paid off Friday.
Donnie Cowart, 29, the 2014 male winner of the 5K, ran through the banner at the finish line on Patterson Ave, arms spread wide, a second consecutive win for him with a race time of 15:42. Tara Richardson, 24, was this year’s female 5K winner at 18:05.
Moonlight Madness is more than just pizza, beer and glow sticks. All proceeds of the race go to the United Way of Forsyth County, a community-oriented non-profit which had tables of representatives with information about the organization, games and a photo booth at the race. One representative was Lauren France, the current director of donor engagement of United Way’s Young Leader’s United Program. This is a group of “young professionals, emerging philanthropists, [and] community leaders who…volunteer and invest time in community,” according to France. France is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Council branch of United Way, which has a special focus on women and education.
When asked about the favorite part of her work with United Way, France answered “the passion of the people who are invested in the community. The desire that people have to give back [is] contagious.”
United Way was not the only organization contributing to the event. Other sponsors included Mellow Mushroom, Hanes Brands Inc. and the City of Winston-Salem. Each of these organizations also had a team of two male and two female runners competing for the fastest collective time, said Chris Frye, Senior Administrative Assistant of the City of Winston-Salem. The City of Winston-Salem’s team won by more than 20 seconds over second-place finisher, the Hanes Brand Inc. team. The Winston-Salem Fire Recruit Class 23 and chief of the fire department also participated in the race and hollered encouraging chants with each mile they ran.
“People really enjoy the night. It’s an especially family-friendly event [and] has a different atmosphere from other races,” Frye said.
As a runner herself, Frye tries to incorporate her own experiences to improve upon the race. Her goal, she says, is to make Moonlight Madness an experience that benefits not just United Way but the participants as well.