When the Elizabeth 8k began in 1986, trees were not on the race organizers’ minds. But in 1989 Hurricane Hugo took out much of the tree canopy in Charlotte, and Elizabeth was hit particularly hard. Rather than accepting the loss of one of the signature aspects of their community, some enthusiastic and dedicated neighbors devoted themselves to replenishing the canopy, specifically on Greenway Avenue. With the support of the Elizabeth Community Association (ECA), two programs kicked off that would significantly replenish the lost trees. The first was a partnership with the City of Charlotte to catalog 17 miles of Elizabeth streets, noting all existing trees by variety as well as the gaps present, and to develop a plan outlining the replacement of the fallen trees. The City of Charlotte used this plan as a guideline to replace over 200 trees in the Elizabeth neighborhood. The second program was to incent residents to plant trees on their personal property. The ECA board committed to allocate funds from the Elizabeth 8K to subsidize the purchase of trees, and over the years, another 150 trees were planted.
In 2013 when Rob Zabel became Race Director, he saw an opportunity to expand the reach of the tree-focused race beyond the yards of the Elizabeth neighborhood. “I wanted to grow the race, and wondered what can our race do for the greater good?” That’s when TreesCharlotte became a beneficiary of the race. Every year since then, a portion of the race proceeds are donated to TreesCharlotte to help our mission of preserving and growing the tree canopy in all areas of Charlotte.
Fast forward to today, and the spirit of the race has endured. Staying true to its history, the 37th Annual Elizabeth 8K, to be held on Saturday, April 29, 2023, is a neighborhood race that has evolved to not only become one of Charlotte’s oldest road races, but also among its most beloved and unique.
Not only does the race wind through one of Charlotte’s most beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, it is a unique race among runners, with distinctive features that set it apart, from opera singing to locally crafted awards to the robust cheer parties to “Big E,” an Elvis impersonator who gets the crowd rallied and the race started. This is why the Elizabeth 8k caught the attention of Lisa Landrum, runCLTrun founder and running coach, who now partners with Zabel in promoting the race. She recognized that the Elizabeth 8K embodies the spirit of both Charlotte and running, pointing out, “there are few races that keep its mission at heart. The Elizabeth 8k has heart in it.” As sponsorships and participants continue to grow, the ultramarathoners share a vision for what the future of the race holds and their efforts are paying off. This year, more than 1000 runners not only from the Elizabeth neighborhood and the greater Charlotte area, but also from nearly a dozen other states, are expected to join forces to run for fun, run for awards, and run for the trees.
One fan of the race is TreesCharlotte Community Arborist and race participant Kate Bolkin who says of her 2022 race experience, ” The feel and energy of the Elizabeth 8K is what sets it apart. Running through one of the most historic and well-canopied neighborhoods in the city is what inspires me to continue the work I am doing to ensure that every Charlottean is able to share in the experience and benefits of healthy, hearty tree-lined streets!”
What sets the Elizabeth 8k apart:
For more information about the Elizabeth 8K and how to register, visit www.elizabeth8k.com and follow @elizabeth8k on Instagram and Facebook.