The fifth annual Sunbury 5K, to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project and the American Diabetes Association, has been set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, and organizer Patrick Boyle said he can’t believe participants will be marking the race’s fifth anniversary.
“We are really psyched that this is our fifth year, and I am very pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm,” he said. “I think a lot of people around here really view it as their race. A lot of the locals in Liberty County take ownership in this race and love coming out every year.”
The race’s route starts at the Sunbury Crab Company and winds through historic Sunbury and Fort Morris State Historic Site, bringing runners within feet of coastal marsh water before ending back at the restaurant.
“The Sunbury Crab Company really lets us take over, which is fantastic and I am not shy about doing that. A lot of the community folks as well — Danny Goodman lets us park on his lawn, the neighborhood folks are out in front of their houses cheering folks on, the folks at Fort Morris dress up in their colonial garb and they shoot off the cannons and the muskets. It is a very unique race,” Boyle said.
At first, the 5K drew about 100 runners, but it has grown exponentially each year. Boyle said it’s the scenery and the laid-back island-style attitude that contribute to its popularity.
“We don’t make people get out of bed at 7 in the morning and race at 8. We have a 10 a.m. start and then you can hang around for a beer afterwards and enjoy yourself, so it’s a good day,” he said.
Boyle added that the race does accommodate serious runners, too.
“We are very lucky to have Robert Espinosa from Fleet Feet Savannah and the Savannah Striders come out every year. The Striders do all the timing for us. It is a professional run event but still fun and casual,” he said.
“For the people who do want to race and want to see their time, we have had the same course since year one, and we have all the course records we’ve maintained every year,” Boyle said. “Not a lot of races actually keep course records, but being a runner, I am always curious on how I did. So we have our course records and people can judge themselves.”
Boyle said welcoming competitive runners along with walkers and stroller-pushers allows the race to celebrate everyone who finishes.
“I think that we have more first-time racers and first-time people doing 5Ks more than any other 5K event, percentage-wise, because it is not high-strung. You can come out and do it at your own pace and raise funds for two great charities, and we are very proud of that,” Boyle said.
For the third year in a row, Merritt and Grinstead Attorneys at Law will be the presenting sponsor.
Bubba Grinstead lives on nearby Colonels Island and heard about the Sunbury 5K from his friend, Jim Collins. Grinstead, who has served Hinesville as an attorney since 1989, said that once he learned the race helps the military community, he wanted to offer his support.
“It’s the charity they benefit. My stepfather did 38 years in the Air Force, so I was raised as a military brat in the type of atmosphere where it was God and country. It was something you believed in all the time. You didn’t talk during the national anthem. He was a gung-ho patriotic American, and that is how I was raised. … The race supports the military, and they deserve 100 percent of our support — no matter where they are. I support them, and this is one way to do it,” Grinstead said.
In addition to Merrit and Grinstead, the race’s gold sponsors are the Sunbury Crab Company, State Farm Insurance/Adam Herndon, M&M Motors and Darsey, Black and Associates. Event sponsors are Coldwell Banker/Jimmy Shanken, Atlantic Foot and Ankle, Rountree and Brady Insurance and Coastal Electric.
“Due to our sponsors, we are able to contribute all of our registration proceeds to the Wounded Warriors Project and the American Diabetes Association,” Boyle said.
Bradwell Institute graphics-communications teacher Jim Collins said he ran the first Sunbury 5K and immediately knew he wanted to help Boyle. Collins, a Sunbury resident and avid runner, gathers volunteer students to help run the event. His students even get a chance to use their creativity in graphic-design class to make the event’s posters and T-shirt art.
Boyle said registration is open.
“We had a little over 100 runners the first year. I think we should come close to 200 this year and we don’t do a whole lot of publicity for it. I kind of like having it be somewhat intimate. it’s not a crazy start with 500-1,000 people. We will never get that big, and we are OK with that,” Boyle said. “Our sponsors let us donate a lot of money to our charities. Two-hundred runners this year would be a phenomenal achievement.”
Registration fees are $25 until Sept. 21. After that, the fee is $30. Register online at www.fleetfeetsavannah.com/sunbury-5k.