Piedmont Plus Senior Games & Silver Arts 5K

By Howard Pearre

The April Saturday morning was nippy but just about right for a 5K run – 43°F, sun thinking about peeking through the clouds, no rain. We lined up on the chalk line drawn on the Market Place Mall parking lot at 8:30 a.m. Shelley held up her arm.

Four, three, two, one, GO! shouted Shelley Vestal, who was recruited for stopwatch duty by her husband Chuck Vestal, director of the Winston-Salem Parks and Recreation Department’s Piedmont Plus Senior Games and Silver Art program.

The ten of us who had signed up to run in the 5K headed for the Salem Creek Greenway past blackberry bushes, still in white flower stage, across the footbridge near the Washington Park ball fields, and past the dog parks. The course took us under Broad Street and Main Street, then twisted up and around to the turnaround point just beyond the Salem College softball field. Then, all the way back to the start/finish line where Shelley was recording each runner’s time.

The 5K run was one of 38 athletic events for seniors, age 50 and older. A total of 547 seniors participated this year in a variety of athletic activities – including running, swimming, team softball, pickle ball, tennis, golf, and other sports – and a variety of arts activities. Events began with the 5K run on April 9 and finished up with a softball tournament on June 18. The Silver Arts competitions – including painting, singing, cheerleading, needlecraft, photography, performance, and literary arts – drew 97 entrants.

The 2015 games and arts competitions drew the most participants in the history of the games, but this year’s participation was a close second. Many participants qualified to advance to the state level NC Senior Games and Silver Arts program in the fall.

On that morning in April, most of the 5K runners knew each other from other races, so there was plenty of friendly trash talk while we stood around waiting for the 8:30 start. One conversation between a runner decked out with sleek Nikes, running shorts embossed with a swoosh and a matching jersey, and another similarly clad competitor went like this:

Runner A: “I’m not exactly sure. I didn’t get a chance to run it beforehand like I usually do. Hope there will be enough volunteers to make sure we stay on the course.” 

Runner B: “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve made some practice runs and know it even without the volunteers. Just stay behind me and you’ll be fine.”

Runner A: “OK, great idea. You lead and I’ll follow . . . to the turnaround point. After that, see ya!” 

Although all ten runners left the starting line together, some started at a reasonable jog while others seemed confused and took off like the race was for 100 yards rather than just over three miles! I was in the “reasonable-jog” group and laughed to myself that I would soon overtake the winded sprinter group. To my surprise, the fast runners kept up their pace. And instead of getting to have a last laugh, I got to have a last pant. Several runners came in with times between 20 and 25 minutes (!) while I achieved a more reasonable time. Shall we say a much more reasonable time.

To learn more about the Piedmont Plus Senior Games and Silver Arts program or to start planning to enter next year’s events, visit CityofWS.org/seniors.

Howard Pearre was employed as a manager with the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation until retiring in 2007. He then worked as a counselor with the Department of Veterans Affairs until 2015. He has been running in 5K events since 2014. He is proud of his “reasonable” finishing times.


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