ROC race features new obstacles

SALEM – Mum’s the word about the two new obstacles being unveiled Saturday during the third annual Race for the ROC 5K Obstacle Race at Waterworth Memorial Park.

What the race has meant to the ROC Youth Center, though, is being talked about with much appreciation and praise by ROC officials.

ROC Director Eric Hamilton said the race has raised more than $25,000 the last two years, allowing the program to start services last summer for the younger 10 to12-year-old crowd and continue working with the older teens and young adults who range in age from 13 to 20 years old.

“The race is very vital to us being able to expand and remain operating,” he said.

The ROC is headquartered in the former Romanian Orthodox Church on South Lundy Avenue and first opened on Dec. 29, 2009 for a New Year’s Eve party for kids ages 13-20. The non-denominational faith-based facility gives the young people a safe place to hang out, where they can talk, shoot hoops, play games and make their own music at no cost to them.

Early in 2010, the ROC opened every other Saturday, then every week. By the summer of 2011, the ROC added Tuesday nights to the rotation. Last summer, programming was added on Thursday nights for kids ages 10-12. Now open three nights a week, the center employs three part-time program directors and is overseen by a board of directors made up of representatives from various churches and the community.

According to Hamilton, they draw about 60 kids a week and the numbers for the younger kids have doubled. The first couple of Thursday nights, about 10 kids showed up. They recently held the first all-night lock-in for that age group.

“We knew the need was there for that younger age group,” he said. “Without the race, we never would have been able to expand.”

Hamilton said the community as a whole has been helpful, whether it’s the participants in the race or businesses sponsoring the race. It’s also generated a volunteer base that has been instrumental in helping the ROC.

“More people are learning about us and learning what we do,” he said.

Challenges in this year’s 3.1-mile race besides the two secret new obstacles will include a mud crawl, hay bales, runs over and under staggered logs, a run through a mud pit, tires in-and-outs, a tunnel crawl, a slip n’ slide and a run through tangled ropes.

Racers can still register for the 5K race online through Friday. Participants can receive $15 off by using code “LAST MINUTE” at checkout. Registration will also be available on race day for $50 for an individual and $45 as a member of a team.

Medals will be given to the top three runners in each division of the 5K. Age groups for male and female include: Under 14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 and 50 & up.

A Family Fun Run will be staged after the 5K race. The cost is $10 per person or $30 per family for up to five runners.

“This fundraiser is vital to the ROC’s ability to open its doors to the youth in our community,” ROC Board of Directors Chairman Larry Cecil said in a press release. “Thanks to the support of local businesses and race participants, proceeds from this event enabled us to expand our ministry to serve a younger demographic. We appreciate the continued support in helping us make a difference.”

Hamilton said they’ll again have parking at Salem High School, with the trolley serving as a shuttle to bring people from the school to the park. People who want to just come and watch people get muddy while maneuvering the obstacles are encouraged to attend.

“We’re looking forward to people coming out – it’s another community event,” he said.

The first wave takes off at 10 a.m., with the Family Fun Run expected around noon.

For information about the race or to register for the race, visit the race website at