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Buford 5K marks 25th anniversary

Photo: Geoffrey Smith Runners take off at the starting line of the 5K during Bufordis 25th Annual Run the Rails Road Race on Saturday.

Photo: Geoffrey Smith Runners take off at the starting line of the 5K during Bufordis 25th Annual Run the Rails Road Race on Saturday.

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Buford -- A day where fast cars met fast runners, historic Buford was covered over by residents and the newest line of Mercedes-Benz vehicles during the 25th Annual Run the Rails 5K-10K Road Race.

Atlanta Classic Cars Mercedes was just one of the main sponsors for Saturday's festivities, celebrating a quarter century of one of Gwinnett's largest races.

"Five years ago, we had about 160 to 180 runners, so it's great to see that we have grown so much," Kim Sitton, co-race director, said of the over 600 participants. "For everything to start and end on time with all of these runners is a great thing."

After adding a 10K a couple of years prior to help pick up interest and qualify runners for the Peachtree Road Race, attendance has ballooned considerably every year. Ages groups spanning from 9 to over 80 allowed for a substantial increase in fund raising totals as well.

"We raised over $10,000 for today's event," said Carmen Hodnett, co-race director. "We were looking to increase our runner and fundraising total from last year, and we definitely succeeded. "

Contributing to the large walk-up turnout was the ideal weather conditions. The temperature never exceeded 60 degrees, while the humidity stayed low.

"I've been helping out with this event for 18 years, and this is the best weather we've had," said Dexter Wood, athletic director for Buford High School. Each year has its distinction, and this year's has got to be the weather."

Chase Milton, 9, of Flowery Branch, ran his third race within the past three weeks, alongside his parents Chris and Sharon. "It was really fun, and my favorite part was crossing the finish line." Chase said.

"The first time I saw Chase, he was running after our car," fellow racer and neighbor, Kathy Finley, said. "He used to always tell us his name was Lightning McQueen, and I believed him at first."

The overall first-place finisher for the 5K race was Matt Johnson, 20, a Buford track product, who now enlists his speedy talents at Augusta State. Johnson crossed the finish line with a time of 16 minutes and 55 seconds.

"It's been a tradition of mine to come back home and run this race for fun," Johnson said. "It's great to see the love and support that the community shows for the town," Johnson added.

The fastest female runner in the 5K was 16-year-old Rayne Grabosky of Buford, who blazed through the course with a time of 23 minutes and 30 seconds.

The 10K results saw Matt Haley, of Buford, run away with a commanding win of 33 minutes and 10 seconds. "I've been running trail races a lot lately and wanted to try my hand at a road race." Haley said.

Having last ran the Buford Road Race while in high school, Deanna Earl,30, came back to claim the fastest female time at 43 minutes. An ER nurse at Atlanta Medical, Earl also finished her first-ever marathon in March.

The proceeds for Saturday's event go to the Buford Athletic Booster Club to support all sports programs in Buford City Schools.

For more information on future races in Buford or Gwinnett County, visit active.com.