The first Friday in May means warmer days and the anticipation of summer to come.
In Travelers Rest it also means that, for going on ten years now, thousands gather on Center Street, by the entrance to the library and Gateway Park and burst out, or stroll if you please, for just over 3 miles in a loop around town. This is the biggest night of the year, when this little city seemingly comes close to doubling in size for the annual Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit 5K run.
As the clock strikes 6:30, and the starter gun goes off, you will see serious athletes, weekend warriors, young and old, families, coworkers, even those with some disabilities, come out and challenge themselves and revel in the joy of a local community. “When we all started this, we truly did not know how it would manifest itself,” says Rebecca Cooper, the Event Coordinator with Community Relations for Prisma Health System. And by this, we are not just talking about an annual race, but the whole Swamp Rabbit Trail system in general.
“One of the primary purposes for Prisma Health System 5K is for a community giveback, to get people and families out,” Cooper continues. Being a Friday night event, this race has a different rhythm compared to many runs in the area. It is accessible, affordable and a great starter event.
And besides being a fun night of intense, but short, exercise for participants, it is a real show case for the city and the community.
Cooper, who has served as a liaison between Prisma Health System and sponsors for the Swamp Rabbit Trail since its inception, says, “We knew that the impact would be pretty big. When it first started we thought we would have 4 or 500 people. We ended up with 1,500 that first year. We were strategic in getting the city and businesses and residents as involved as we can. It’s not many 5Ks that have three water stations. We have churches, students from the high school. We put a lot of effort into getting people to realize what is going to happen in the city.”
With race participants and spectators there will probably be an extra 8,000 people in town, when there would only be a few hundred diners and walkers on a normal Friday evening.
“Local businesses and church groups get first choice to be a part of the end of race block party. It is important for local groups. It is a great introduction for people to the city,” Cooper added. As an opportunity to share and show a community off for a few hours, it is hard to beat.
For the community, the race can act as a great advertisement for local communities and a tool for building relationships that help the community and economy. With the weekly farmers market beginning the next day at Trailblazer Park, the race effectively kicks off the outdoor season for the community. “I’m really proud of this city and we want to maintain it and to be a good neighbor,” says Cooper.
It is especially worthwhile to see people use the trail and the race as a way of recovery and growth from injury and disability. As the title organizer, Prisma Health System is really interested in the trail and race being used as a health and quality of life tool. Cooper says, “We have a new group participating this year, Achilles International, Greenville chapter. It is exciting to see those people out there. I have seen people use the trail to recover from accidents, I have seen them start on the trail with a walker then a cane, then walking, then I have even seen them running. To see how this trail has impacted the community overall from a health perspective is pretty powerful. It is great to be able to witness that.”
The Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit 5K is successful because of the dedicated hours of so many volunteers. If you are interested in showing off Travelers Rest and all it has to offer, the race needs volunteers for setup, race operations and clean up. Find out more by clicking here.
In keeping with a family friendly, low cost event, you can sign up for the Swamp Rabbit 5K by either clicking here or at the race site at Gateway Park on race day til 5:30 pm.