Racing 105 miles, runners virtually tour North Carolina farms

Racing 105 miles, runners virtually tour North Carolina farms

This spring, customers and staff of North Carolina’s Weaver Street Market food co-op covered 105 miles on a virtual route connecting ten local farms and artisans that the co-op buys from.

In all, 74 runners logged more than 6,000 miles, with 49 finishing the course by June 1.

Local runner Nan Lujan won the race in just 15 days. “It was perfect timing as I was in the middle of marathon training and it was motivating to be able to check in, especially on days when I had to run by myself. I loved the feedback along the course route about the local spots we were virtually running by as well.”

Each time a runner logged miles, his or her avatar would advance on the Racerymap. The prior day’s results were emailed out each morning, and Weaver Street communicated to the racers with news about the various farms and artisans they were virtually visiting, along with occassional prizes related to those partners.

Katey Smollen, who manages the prepared foods, bread and pastries departments at WSM’s Carrboro store, joined the race as part of the co-op’s employee fitness program. She and other staff also joined Weight Watchers around the same time, so “everything became a healthy competition.”  Colleagues were talking about the race at work, says Smollen. “Did you see how much Allie ran, or who’s that person who ran 13 miles?”

Runners in the Weaver Street Market’s first farm race (virtually) passed these cows at the Ran-Lew Dairy in Snow Camp, North Carolina

“It was great to highlight some of our local producers and to communicate with the runners, and it was impressive how quickly they ran the course,” said Emily Buehler, Weaver Street’s Social Media Coordinator.

The race visited Mystery Brewing, WSM’s kitchens and bakeries, TS Designs, Homeland Creamery, Lindale Dairy, Lindley Mills, Ran-Lew Dairy, MapleView Dairy Country Store, Chapel Hill Creamery, and Piedmont Food and Ag Processing Center (PFAP.) The route also included virtual stops at Weaver Street Market’s stores in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.

Weaver Street used Facebook and Twitter posts to announce the race to its social media fans and the race got underway February 21. Though weather in North Carolina was unseasonably cold and icy this winter, 75 racers signed up.

According to Buehler, the race was a good fit for WSM, which has an active events calendar, including free live music 4 times per week during the warm weather, six wine shows a year, an occasional puppeteer, and one year, the baking of “Carrboro’s largest cookie” on Weaver Street Market Carrboro lawn.

“Customers participated for free, it was educational if they read about the farms they were passing or the products that we gave away, and it promoted healthy living. It also had a sense of camaraderie between participants,” says Buehler. “We’re looking forward to our next race.”

[Invite your friends to join a real race on a virtual route with Racery!.]