Double Decker Run has best year yet

Double Decker runJust a handful of seconds after the runners who were taking part in the 10K portion of the annual Double Decker Spring Run got all the way clear of the starting line, J. Lee Taylor hit the music. As Rick James’ Super Freak played over the speakers, Taylor, the event’s head music mixer, got re-organized and ready to send off the runners who were signed up for the 5K.

For the past 13 years, Taylor has been traveling from Olive Branch to Oxford, offering his time to the Oxford Chamber of Commerce in order to make the area’s premier running event that much better than the previous one.

The 2014 edition of the run – the first one started in 1996 – had the largest turnout of any of the previous 18. Almost 1,200 runners signed up, while 111 children took part in the Kids Fun Run that capped the almost two hours of excitement.

“This is a race that’s grown from a grass-roots effort if you will. Also, the chamber has grown it by using Start 2 Finish to put the race on, which is an excellent race management company I work for. They have been a big part of the race growing because they can handle any size race,” said Taylor, who added he likes talking on the microphone and keeping the crowd going the most about his job. “I like trying to be funny and adding a little excitement to the slow times. I’m an amateur (DJ) at best.”

Start 2 Finish literally takes care of all the results, all the setting up and all the breaking down. About the only thing the company doesn’t do is run the course for the participant.

“Their name pretty much sums them up and I’ve been working for, or with, those guys ever since they started and they make the whole thing easier for everybody,” Taylor said. “The overall quality has just increased and the festival is a big part of the draw. They figure ‘hey, while I’m there, I’ll do the 10K and hang out.’ That’s a big reason why people will come here, the race and the festival, all in one day. There are a lot from neighboring towns and all over the state that take part.”

Pam Swain has served as the race director each of the last 12 springs and the high numbers show that people are committed to taking part each year.

“We’ve been around for 19 years and it’s to our advantage that we’ve been around so long. There is a lot of competition, not just in the running world, but this weekend as well in the running world in the region. There is one in Birmingham (Ala.), there is one in Nashville (Tenn.) and there is a half in Memphis,” Swain said. “When we look back at our statistics after each race and see where our registrations come from, we usually hit around 22 states from around the country that come to Oxford to be a part of this spring run. It’s just phenomenal to see that many people that are dedicated to be in this race and come into town.”

Because the festival has grown in popularity, Swain has seen a lot of Ole Miss alumni come back and take part in the run.

“We also have parents of students at Ole Miss take part. This is a weekend that they want to see their kids. They’re runners and we are very physically conscious community, with a lot of running going on. You can drive up and down our streets all the time and you’re going to find people that are out and being active,” Swain said. “Our community really embraces runs like this.”

As for Start 2 Finish, Swain said they came into play about five years ago when the race got so large it was tough for all the volunteers to keep up with it.

“We have a tremendous base of volunteers who are committed to it and come every year. We couldn’t do it without them, but about four or five years ago, we partnered with with Start 2 Finish which is a regional event management company out of Memphis and they have just brought our event to a whole other level, a level we couldn’t handle by ourselves,” Swain said. “When you see what they have put together with the registration and the awards, our schedule of events on the morning of … they do about 200 races a year. J. Lee has been coming every year I’ve done it and that’s 12 years and he was doing it before I even got here. It definitely makes things more efficient, which is a reason people keep coming back. When runners get to a race and they see it run the way it should be, then it makes them want to come back the next year. If they come and there is a problem with the registration or they feel like they are somewhat delayed or it takes a long time for the awards to come back, then they get frustrated and don’t want to come back.”

David Campanella, an Oxford resident who is a fitness trainer by trade, won the 30-34 age division in the 5K. His main reason for signing up Saturday morning and taking part revolved around competition.

“I enjoy it. It’s Double Decker, it’s a great town and good weather,” Campanella said. “Doing the ROTC program at Ole Miss has helped train me. It’s great for the town to have so many come out. It’s definitely challenging and a great course.”

john.davis@journalinc.comTwitter: @oxfordcitizenjd

About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.