ROCKINGHAM — Tents began popping up Thursday, Sept. 22 as the close-knit community of runners from all over the country began claiming their spots at one of their favorite runs — the Hinson Lake 24 Ultra Classic.
There were 14 states represented with California being the farthest.
There was a buzz of excitement in the air, although it was bitter-sweet.
This would be the first year since the 24-hour run began in which Bill Keane’s No. 2 overall spot was vacant.
Keane passed away unexpectedly in January of this year as he was out on a run in his hometown of Winston-Salem. He had a special place in the hearts of many people within the community of runners, and there will be a forever void in those hearts.
Race organizer Jerry Lindstrand opened up with a short speech a few minutes before the start of the race and had a big surprise for all.
“Our dear friend Bill Keane went for an eternal run; he has been an inspiration for a lot of people here,” Lindstrand said, recognizing Keane’s family who were at the race.
“We’ve got his tent set up where he normally has it. Bill always was known for having an ice chest of beer at his tent; please stop by and have a beer on Bill.”
Lindstrand then told the crowd about a two-inch memorial token: one side bearing Keane’s likeness and the 1,154 miles he accumulated at Hinson Lake; the other side featuring “Suck it up Buttercup,” in recognition of Keane’s Team Buttercup.
“Stop by and take a look, think about Bill, and grab one of the keepsakes,” Lindstrand said. “If you didn’t know him or have never run with him, while you are out on the trail talk with some of the people here and ask them to tell you stories of Bill so you can learn who he was.”
Each year, Lindstrand and his wife Connie collaborate on an idea for the next shirt design; this year it memorialized Keane.
“I think it was awesome the way they did the shirts; It couldn’t have been more wonderful,” said Keane’s widow Susan.
The race started at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 with 387 participants — one shy of the record 388 in 2019 — and ended at 8 a.m. Sunday. There were 500 spots available, all of which filled up quickly after registration began, as it is a desired location for runners.
Coming in first place was 42-year-old Chris Ardis from Rock Hill, South Carolina, with 100.4548 miles, followed by:
- second place – Chip Long, 52, Rockingham – 96.9794 miles
- third place – Seth Bailey, 41, Hope Mills – 92.8952 miles
Karen Ritchie, 56, of Denver, came in fourth overall and was the top runner for the women with 90.1920 miles.
Long and Laura MacLean were top MTC overall in the 24-hour run and 100K. Ardis and Shannon Johnston were first in 100K.
Longtime runner Ray Krolewicz, 68, from Columbia, South Carolina, continues to hold the No. 1 overall place at Hinson Lake with 1267.6272 accumulated miles.
He and Keane ran neck and neck at Hinson Lake for 15 of their 25 years of running together.
“He’s running laps around heaven,”Krolewicz said. “God’s exhausted just watching him.”
Susan Dummar was another of Keane’s longtime running friends; over 20 years. She has run all 16 of the Hinson Lake runs except two due to injuries.
“Not only was Bill a great running partner, but he went above and beyond as a friend,” Dummar said. “Bill traveled to attend my former husband Fred’s promotion ceremony, battalion command, and retirement party.”
Dummar added that her former husband ran Hinson Lake numerous times and was No. 3 overall but moved away and is no longer able to attend. She holds the No. 13 overall place with 679.8850.
Retired professor Paul Heckert from Cullowhee, who has ran Hinson Lake for 14 years, and Win Stephens from Raleigh, both 69, were friends in school who were reacquainted at Hinson Lake seven years ago. Heckert holds the No. 5 overall place with 869.7418 miles.
Bonnie Ferguson and Dave DeSilva are a few other longtime runners who traveled from Charlotte for the run.
“The people and the atmosphere are what make this run fun,” said Ferguson.
“It instantly becomes a bonding environment,” DeSilva added. “Just watching the children who attend throughout the years grow up. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere here at Hinson; people go at their own pace.”
DeSilva holds the No. 17 overall place with 657.7373 miles.
Seventy-year-old Jerry Rich is a retired electrical engineer from Lexington who is also a longtime runner. Rich holds the No. 11 overall place with 721.3361 miles.
When he began the run 11 years ago, he camped out in his truck. He has since graduated to a more comfortable self-built, five-room camper which his engineering abilities helped him create.
David Solomon continues to hold the overall No. 3 place with 1105.1606 miles, Richard Lilly holds the overall No. 4 place with 1029.5553 miles, and of course No. 2 will remain Bill Keane’s place with 1154.4442 miles, always to be remembered.
Keane’s family arrived Saturday and occupied the tent which was set up in his memory.
They also walked a lap together in his honor; although grandson Owen insisted he wanted to run three straight laps. Hinson Lake may have another Keane family runner after all.
Son Nigel Keane said the family was learning how connected his father was to the running community.
“You never hear the same story twice, they are true Bill stories,” said Keane’s daughter, Nea Dalton. “My dad would say the Hinson Lake race is one of the most desired 24-hour races and now our family sees exactly what he meant.
“It starts with Jerry and Connie’s love and passion for the sport and the community. Their attention to detail makes everyone feel special; then you add in the amazing running community and you have something truly special.”
Dalton added that the stories of perseverance from runners like Solomon, Long and Leslie Ponder “are so inspiring.”
“The dedication and camaraderie of Team Buttercup is uplifting,” Dalton continued. “The race draws in people from across the country like 12-year-old Abigail Gilley from Maine who ran 42 miles. You simply have to see it for yourself to understand.”
Dalton continued: “He would always tell us as children not to forget to put the fun in dysfunctional, and he would also always say ‘Only the good die young; so I’m going to live forever.’”
Nigel Keane said the family is going around and spreading his father’s ashes at his favorite Ultra sites. According to Keane’s obituary, he completed 391 ultramarathons during his life.
“Hinson Lake was his Number one favorite place,” Nigel Keane said. “We came here about a month ago and selected a location to spread his ashes. We didn’t know at the time it was the exact spot where he always set his tent up.
“When I got here and saw his tent set up, it made me very happy to know the memory of my dad will continue to live on in his favorite spot at Hinson Lake. Not only will his legacy live on through his family … but will live on through the ultramarathon community.”
Brad Smythe has been the dedicated race timer for the Hinson run about nine years. He sets his equipment up in front of the lake and is there for the entire race.
Nineteen students from Richmond Senior High School and Richmond Early College High School were there to lend a hand and earn service hours for Beta Club and National Honor Society.
And massage therapist Denise Martin was once again available to give runners relief. Martin has donated her time for the past 10 Hinson Lake runs.
The run has also served as a collection event for Richmond County Animal Advocates, which focuses mostly on its spay and neuter program.
According to RCAA founder Allison Story, the event collected more than 1,500 pounds of dry food for dogs and cats, more than 100 cans of wet food, 268 pounds of cat litter, a crate and other items, as well as more than $600 in donations.
Go to the facebook page for more information on the Hinson Lake 24-Hr Ultra Classic.
For a complete listing on overall run placements, go to https://my.raceresult.com.
See more photos below.