Mementos filled racers' hearts with joy; elementary students learned about endurance sports.

Last weekend, SwimRun NC kicked off its third edition in North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park Lake and Dan River. The tough course featured almost 2,800 feet of elevation gain over 15 total miles of running, split into 10 runs, and two miles of swimming, split into 9 swims. And before the 100 teams of two headed out on their quest to tackle the terrain, they each received a hand drawn, personalized card of encouragement from local third, fourth, and fifth graders.

“We buy trucker hats and have all kinds of swag and great photography,” says co-race director Herbert Krabel. “But everyone loved this. Even the most hard-core racers said it was their favorite thing.”

About six weeks to a month before the race, Krabel visits elementary school students at the Winston-Salem area’s Downtown School and Summit School to talk about swimming and running, and show them swimrun equipment like tethers, wetsuits, and hand paddles. “They always have so many questions!” Krabel says. “At that age, they’re only really exposed to what their parents do and many don’t run or swim. They ask, ‘When can I do that?’”

Then the kiddos enthusiastically make cards for every team and racer. Participants get their special greetings at packet pickup and loved them so much, they cheered wildly when Krabel introduced Downtown School principal Andy Lester-Niles, who was competing, at the pre-race meeting.

“The athletes are just completely touched by this,” Krabel says.