St. Francis to Rotary: Shamrock Run torch passed

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

The Shamrock Run is back.

On Saturday, March 16, runners – and those who prefer to watch from the sidelines but still participate – will be in Downtown Mocksville for the re-emergence of the annual spring time run.

Sponsored by St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church since 1988, the run was canceled because of Covid in 2020. As the pandemic subsided, so did the number of dedicated volunteers at the church. “Covid and committee member fatigue put us out,” said church member, David Taylor.

Enter Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin. He was at a blood drive at the church recently, and talk turned to the Shamrock Run. As president of the local Rotary Club and a runner himself, Marklin saw it as not only a fund-raising opportunity for the club, but an event that can bring the community together.

O’Calahans Publick House, the downtown pub and eatery that has traditionally supported the run, agreed to be the premier sponsor. Since it’s also St. Patrick’s Day weekend, O’Calahans will be open early that Saturday morning offering Irish specialities, as well as serving as race headquarters.

The Rev. Father Eric L. Kowalski of St. Francis is happy with the transition. He’s also proud of his congregation for putting on the run for so many years- one of the most popular in the area because of the food and hospitality.

“Every year was different, and that was the best part,” Kowalski said. “Just seeing the people, saying hello and hearing where they’re from. Watching everybody work together, as a pastor, it makes me proud and it makes my heart feel good. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

“It’s been very humbling to me. Everybody here is so warm and inviting. People open doors for each other. That’s the way the people here are, and it was seen in the Shamrock Run.”

Kowalski credits John Sherden and Sister Bernadette McNamara as key members in getting that first Shamrock Run going. The members, and there weren’t that many in 1988, “were a determined group.” That first race saw 33 people participate, the first official 5K in Davie County. Over the years, it grew to include hundreds of runners.

“As it developed, it became an important fundraiser for the parish, but it expanded into the community,” Kowalski said.

Taylor, a long-time race volunteer, said the Shamrock Run has contributed to A Storehouse for Jesus, Special Olympics, Family Promise of Davie, Habitat for Humanity, the Dragonfly House, Davie Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center, the Davie County Pregnancy Care Center, Hospice & Palliative Care of Davie County, and the Davie Family YMCA.

“We’re very excited to be able to see this legacy continue,” Kowalski said.

“Father, we had a good run with the run,” Taylor said. “It’s great to bring this back, and the downtown  area will help make it big.”

Marklin met with many of St. Francis’s Shamrock committee members, and quickly learned that while they no longer manage the run, they still care. “All of those committee members had a passion, that was obvious. But it will take us a while to get the numbers back up.”

The race will be on Saturday, March 16 starting at 8:15 a.m. The course will go from downtown on North Main Street to Cemetery Street, on trails in Rich Park before returning to downtown.

You don’t have to be a runner to participate. Sign up for the 0.0K, that’s no running at all, and you’ll get all the goodies runners receive as well as a chance to help the causes for this year’s race, Cognition and Davie Community Park.

Sign up at, or mail registrations to Will Marklin at 848 S. Main St., Mocksville. The fee is $30 through March 1 (guaranteed t-shirt), $35 through March 15 and $40 on race day.

Marklin said that O’Calahans has something special planned for those who sign up for the 0.0K.

Will the leprechaun be back? Maybe.

Will there be bagpipes? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s O’Calahans.