Home Local News Hinson Lake 24 Ultra Classic: A runners’ haven

Hinson Lake 24 Ultra Classic: A runners’ haven

Runners gather at sunrise during the annual Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. See more photos at the RO's Facebook page.
Betty Gallo McIntyre

ROCKINGHAM — Runners from all over the United States anxiously anticipated Saturday’s 24-Hour Ultra Classic at Hinson Lake in Rockingham.

It had been two years since they had the opportunity to participate in one of their favorite runs due to last year’s coronavirus shutdown. But after patiently waiting, the day finally arrived. 

Out of the 500 participants allowed to enter, there were 334 total runners this year. 

The close-knit community of runners began arriving to unpack tents and set up campsites several days before the start of the race which was held on the 1.5032-mile loop trail circling the lake. 

Camping spaces were available on a first come, first serve basis. Many took advantage of setting up tents, making it  convenient for participants to take breaks close by in the comfort of their own space. 

An aid station was set up and available for all runners in need along with a massage therapist, Denise Dilley Martin. 

Volunteers helped with serving the runners food and drinks throughout the 24-hour period, and pet supply donations were collected for the Richmond County Animal Advocates, which was a huge success. 

A spectacular sunrise ushered in the weather-perfect day for the runners to begin their 24-hour journey. The national anthem was played, then off they went. The race began at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and ended at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, with Shannon Johnstone from Cary announced as the first-place winner with 106.7272 miles. Kevin Buczek from Durham came in second with 102.4326 miles. 

Runner Tom Gabell, who now resides in Saint Simons Island, Georgia, first organized the Hinson Lake run in 2006, and also participated in this year’s run. 

During a 2010 run in Ellerbe, Gabell asked runner Jerry Lindstrand to take it over. Making sure the event continued, Lindstrand has been in charge since 2011. He and his wife Connie work hard to make it happen each year along with numerous others.

“Every year is special in its own way and this year was no different,” Lindstrand said. “We had probably the best weather conditions I can remember. Although attendance was down slightly, we had 334 total participants with 85-plus surpassing 100K and four who eclipsed 100 miles, one of which did it for the first time ever! Seeing her celebrate that achievement was special.”

Gnomes — which first became part of the race in 2012 — were spotted throughout the running trail. 

Peter Asciutto and Gwen Lanning made a quick trip to Walmart to pick up some supplies the night before the race in 2012. They spotted the gnomes and thought it would be fun to purchase one, put it out before the race, and see if the runners spotted it. 

It was a big hit as the runners moved the gnome from place to place; it seemed to give them something else to think about other than the constant lap after lap. The original gnome has retired from the race due to his wear and tear, but runners continue to bring more gnomes each year as they seek, find, and move them from place to place during the 24-hour period.  

The banana drop has also become a major part of the Hinson Lake run. During the last lap, participants are given a banana with their number on it. When the horn blows at the end of the race, the bananas are dropped by the runner and the distance is measured to be included in their total mileage. 

Several of the runners have overcome obstacles in their lives and are living proof that you can do what you put your mind to. 

One is Richmond County resident Chip Long, who had an outstanding day finishing in sixth place with 91.6952 miles. He also finished first male in the Mangum Track Club. 

Long is living proof miracles still happen as he survived a double stroke during a triathlon back in 2019. He began running in 2018 and after the strokes, they told him he would never walk or talk again, but he says God had different plans for him.

His wife Kathy recognized the stroke symptoms and was able to get immediate help from a nearby paramedic. Against all odds, Long was released from the hospital within a few days and immediately began training again. He ran his next triathlon two weeks later and has been going strong ever since.

“They said if I lived, I would never walk or talk again,” Long said. “I am blessed to be alive; the good Lord and modern medicine came together that day. My wife Kathy is with me at every race; she is the reason I am alive today as she recognized the stroke. Hinson Lake is where I started running and it’s home.” 

Laura MacLean from Faison was the first female finisher as well as overall finisher in the Mangum Track Club with 92.1261 miles.

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Another overcomer is David Solomon from Roxboro. Solomon hit the 1,000-mile mark at Hinson Lake back in 2019 and is overall in third place at Hinson Lake with 1,080 miles. 

“I have muscular dystrophy, and, at the end of the day, I am just thankful to be able to do it all,” said Solomon. 

Sixty-six-year-old Ray Krolewicz from Pontiac, South Carolina and 77-year-old Bill Keane from Winston Salem are two running legends who have not missed a run since the event began. 

Krolewicz holds overall first place and Keane holds overall second place — with only a 45-mile difference between them. 

“When your very best isn’t good enough, there is always second place,” said Keane. 

When asking Krolewicz how long he has been running, he said, “I guess I started at age four when I got in trouble with my mom and took off running. I’ve been running ever since. I look forward to hanging out here in Rockingham with the coolest people around.” 

He currently holds an overall running total of around 200,000 miles — 1198 of which were accomplished at Hinson Lake. The Cape Fear 24 in Lillington will be Krolewicz’s next run which will be in two weeks; running with him will be Steve Durr and Paul Heckert. 

Keane has an overall running total of around 95,000 miles — 1,153 of them at Hinson Lake.

Runner Michelle Chauvin from Fenton, Missouri met Keane four years ago and has been teaming with him since. 

Keane started a team called Team Buttercup several years ago in which the runners are selectively picked. He also came up with a creative idea this year during the 12th lap. The idea connects with a new world record of 191.9 miles that was recently set in Europe for the 24-Hour Ultra, breaking the previous record of 186 miles. Keane suggested all runners have a goal of meeting 10% of the 191.9 record during lap 12 which would be 19.19 miles. This gave the runners motivation during the lap along with a little fun. 

“The Hinson Lake race is one of the most desired 24-hour races in the country,” Keane said. “The mile-and-half track is spectacular, and the course has a rhythm that produces high mileage. The course had a record that was set several years ago at 164 miles by Mike Morton,” said Keane. 

Keane said he is motivated by Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Greensboro resident Catherine Kramer has been running races for more than 20 years and has only missed two of the Hinson Lake Ultras. She is in the overall top 10, and has the most overall miles as female runner with 785.

“It feels like coming home here at Hinson Lake, and was weird last year when we didn’t get to see family,” Kramer said. “I’m so glad they were able to have it this year; I love it here.” 

Chris Ardis from Rock Hill, South Carolina, came in third place with 100.9714 miles. 

No one is too old or too young to enter, as the youngest participant of the day was 2-year-old Beatrice who exceeded her goal of two laps — she completed three.

“Every year, I witness people achieving feats they never thought was possible, and this year did not disappoint,” said Lindstrand. “I’m already looking forward to HL24UC 2022.” 

For more information on the Hinson Lake 24 Ultra Classic, log onto runsignup.com and search Hinson Lake.