By Matt de Simone
Runners: on your marks. Get set for another fun run for the entire family through Botetourt’s county seat.
The 36th annual First Bank 5K & 10K Run kicks off at Central Academy Middle School this Saturday at 9 a.m. This year’s event is presented by the Botetourt Rotary Club, which partnered with First Bank and Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS).
The Botetourt Rotary Club returns for its third year helping organize the race. BCPS joined in for a second year, including Angela Myers from Read Mountain Middle School as a school representative. Many other local businesses have supported the race with donations and sponsorships.
It was 36 years ago when Richard Pauley presented the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors with the idea that it would forever change Octobers in Fincastle. From 1987 until 2016, Pauley served as the race’s director.
In the early 1980s, Pauley trained for marathons and challenged himself as a runner. Pauley noticed running events in the Roanoke Valley but none in Botetourt.
“Dominion Bank had a race in Roanoke every year,” Pauley recalled. “I ran it that several times and I was like, ‘Why can’t we have something like this in Botetourt?’”
Pauley contacted a friend, neighbor, and former Bank of Fincastle (First Bank) President John Kilby about putting on a run in Botetourt. Kilby thought it was a good idea, but he told Pauley to present it to the board.
“I just told [the board] why it was a good idea,” Pauley continued. “I said, ‘I don’t see how you could lose.’ They said they would talk about it and let me know. Well, [former bank chairman] Harry Mac Williamson called me at home.
“‘Pauley,’ he said as I can still hear his voice, ‘We’ve decided to do it with one condition—we want it done first class… It was a good thing for the bank [of Fincastle] and a good thing for Botetourt County,” Pauley noted. “[Botetourt is] probably one of the prettiest places to live that I’ve ever been to. And I don’t know of any other places I would rather live. [This weekend] it’s going to get really pretty.”
The staff produced the annual race “labor-intensively” during its inception, according to Pauley.
After trial and error (and technology), the runners have become easier to track, and the event is equally easier to produce in terms of registration and race times. Gone are the physical charts, dots, and clipboards charting the runners. Now there are apps, phones, and videos to help document race results.
Pauley has many memories from his time as the race’s director.
“I was real passionate about this thing at the time I was responsible for it because I saw the good it was doing,” Pauley said. “I’m glad it lasted and persisted. I’m surprised by it. You have to have community leaders and business people that decided it was a good idea. I’m glad for that.”
Rotarian Dr. Angie Anderson spends her third year as race chair helping coordinate this year’s run.
“While I have not been a runner throughout my life, I am passionate about fitness as a yoga and cycle teacher at the Botetourt YMCA,” Anderson stated in a recent email. “I am looking forward to continuing in my supportive role next year at the race and watching it continue to grow!”
At the race’s core, it’s about getting outside and setting goals. This Saturday, runners once again prepare to run through the hills of Fincastle.
The first Fincastle Run took place in 1987 with 55 participants. Over the years, participation increased to numbers as high as 1,100 runners. This year, over 450 runners (and counting) will participate.
“It’s been a positive influence on my family’s life,” Pauley remembered. “My son, Andrew, when he was at Virginia Tech, had a minor injury. Steve Taylor sent him down here to run this race as sort of rehab. In fairness, any college runner is going to have an advantage. He won the 10K [that year]… but he always wanted to win the 5K.
“After Andrew got out of college, he ran with a bunch of guys [from school] and came in second or third. He didn’t win. Anyway, [in 2016] he won the 5K. They took a picture of Andrew and me, with my arm around him.”
It was a moment where Pauley saw his son achieve a goal he set for himself, which was an example of what he wanted every runner to experience in the Fincastle Run. Having Andrew win the 5K was a proud moment for Richard as a race director and, more importantly, as a father.
All three of Pauley’s sons ran track collegiately. The Fincastle Run was one of their first experiences in a long-distance environment.
The race still has room for anyone interested in participating. To sign up to run or volunteer, please visit https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Fincastle/FirstBankFallRun.