Chapin, SC – Chapin came alive early last Saturday as walkers, runners, and ruckers started filing into the parking lot of Palmetto Bone & Joint on Columbia Avenue. They were all there for the third annual Justin Pepper 5K run hosted by The Justin Pepper Foundation. As in years past, some ran, others walked, and still others carried a ruck sack on their back. This year however, things were a little different because of an unseen menace, the COVID-19.
As participants were just itching to get on the course began to arrive, physical therapists from Drayer Physical Therapy checked each participants’ temperatures as they waited on Ellett Road.Once everyone was cleared, they each received a smiley face sticker to show they were doing fine and ready to go. Masks were required until runners were on the course and all participants were staged in the parking lot on colored dots placed 6 feet apart. The different staging areas were based on runners’ average run time. This helped ensure social distancing guidelines were met.
At 7:00 a.m., the participants moved behind the start line keeping the social distancing requirements in mind. Strictly Running, a Columbia company that times many races in the area, was on hand to ensure the participants’ performances were marked and recorded properly. Plenty of volunteers were on hand, and they only allowed five people at a time to approach and cross the start line to begin their race.
Along the route, signs reminded everyone to observe social distancing. Two water stops were provided along the route and the guidelines were closely monitored at each of these.
To add to the fun, the Sonic Tator Tot character waved at runners just as they passed Mile 1 and grabbed their waterbottles from a table. There was no milling around here, just grab the bottle and go. Meanwhile at the Mile 2 turnaround, B106.7 FM radio played some jams and water was again available in the ‘grab and go’ style. At the finish line, participants were directed to cool down in the parking lot at a safe distance from each other. They were able to grab a bottle of water or Gatorade and go on about their day.
Instead of presenting the awards in a traditional manner, all recipients were posted on Facebook by Race Director Kari Pepper McKeone. Summer James, from B106.7 was a big help here too. Any medals that were not picked up at one of the three locations provided around town will be mailed to their winners.
Because of the extra precautions, there were no DJ or vendors this year. No one lingered after the event but in the end, runners did what they do and ran the race, something they had missed all summer long. Several members of the Columbia Running Club said they were just happy to have a competitive event to run even if it was a no-frills version.
“We couldn’t have pulled this off without the support of our sponsors, especially the doctors from Palmetto Bone & Joint and Dr. Ben Pinner from Pinner Clinic in Peak, who made sure we were doing everything the safest way possible and were here to provide assistance to participants, if needed,” stated Kari Pepper McKeone, the CEO of The Justin Pepper Foundation and the race’s director. She added, “We are also grateful for Drayer Physical Therapy for providing a temperature check station. Exercise is important and we need opportunities to get out of the house and get some fresh air. This took a little extra effort but was worth it to see the smiles…..not just on the stickers, but on their faces!”