Charles Towne Landing kicks off 5K race series

After 12 years, Race the Landing marks a return to organized races in Charles Towne Landing.

The longer I live, the more I realize life is truly cyclical. What's out of favor today will be in favor tomorrow.

Twelve years ago, almost to this date, I wrote a column about how a manager at Charles Towne Landing was putting the squeeze on running and racing in the beautiful, historic state park.

Specifically, in a letter to race organizers, the then-manager said runners coming to the park would be charged a $5 admission fee and that "Due to safety concerns, we are no longer allowing road races, walks, etc. on our entrance and exit roads. Please plan accordingly."

The manager at the time, who called people who ran and walked in the park "recreators," clearly was focused on the history of the place, and his new rules put the proverbial kibosh on organized runs in the park, though it didn't keep people from running and walking in the park, before gates open, for free. That manager resigned in 2004.

And while the bounty of races in the area made the virtual race ban bearable, it was a significant change for the running community.

After all, Charles Towne Landing was as important to running in the Lowcountry as it was to the founding of Charleston.

One of the area's first organized races, the Charles Towne Bicentennial Run was held in the park in 1974, four years before the first Cooper River Bridge Run. And in the '80s and '90s, the park typically hosted five to six annual races a year.

Starting tonight, Charles Towne Landing and the Friends of Charles Towne Landing are opening their arms to runners once again with an interesting new 5K race series, Race the Landing. The series features five 5Ks on Thursday evenings starting with a kids run at 6:15 p.m. and a 5K at 7 p.m.

Each race, held entirely on paved road and trails, will have a theme with refreshments that reflect the theme:

Today: "Southern Comfort" with a "pig pick'n" and bluegrass music.

May 10: "Barbados Night" with "food from the islands."

June 7: "Taste of Italy," where the carb-loading happens after the race.

June 14: "Mexican Fiesta" with a promised "finest fiesta north of Mexico."

June 19: "All-American" with hamburgers, hot dogs and cold beer.

The fees are basically $25 for each 5K, or $100 for the series, and $10 for each kids race. Money raised will go to Friends of Charles Towne Landing to help with expenses of the park not covered by state funding. Go to racethelanding.com.

Current manager Rob Powell notes that the park has undergone major physical changes in the past eight years and that staff and the friends group were looking for a way to bring races back to the park without interfering with regular operating hours. "An evening race series fit the bill," Powell said. "Charles Towne Landing is a publicly owned park, and we want the public to use it and see all that we have to offer."

One race that almost dates back to Charles Towne Landing's running heritage is the Hell Hole Swamp Festival Gator Run & Walk.

The 37th Gator Run, a 10K loop course through Francis Marion National Forest, will start at 8:15 a.m. Saturday in Jamestown. The race features gator head trophies to top finishers. The fee for the run is $25 at www.active.com or at On the Run in Mount Pleasant 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. today and Friday. The fee is $35 if signing up 7-7:45 a.m. Saturday at Jamestown Town Hall.

Many stay for the festival itself, which includes a parade and an array of contests (best legs, arm wrestling, spitting and ugly dog).