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Gotta Run: More on Winter Flight and some early noteworthy runners

A week ago this morning, I ran for the first time this winter with snow falling. Out well before dawn, it wasn’t snowing when I first hit the road. But then gradually, a few flakes started to fall, and soon I was in my element. Nothing better than running with those snowflakes gently dropping all around me.

Speaking of snowflakes, they just happen to be the longtime symbol of Salisbury’s Novant Health Winter Flight 8K. Long known as a special race throughout the Southeast, our home town race has many superlatives. Winter Flight is the Road Runners Club of America 8K (4.97 miles) North Carolina State Championship. On an even bigger stage, Winter Flight is part of the Running Journal Grand Prix. Other states with races on the year-long tour series include two in Alabama, two in South Carolina, and one each in Mississippi, Virginia and Tennessee.

Meredith Abramson of Whimziggy has another amazing logo for the 2016 long-sleeve commemorative shirts. All 5K Health Walkers and 8K runners will be assured of a shirt.

Commitments from high profile participants continue to come in. One of the most interesting is Meredith Dolhare, dubbed the “Iron Lady” by Sports Illustrated for the amount of endurance races that she undertakes. She was only the sixth woman to complete the Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon and the 508-mile Furnace Creek bicycle ride both in the same year. The Badwater and Furnace Creek races are held in Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. Dolhare is the only person to complete those races and the Brazil 135 and the Rouge Orleans 126.2 back to back.

Dolhare started her ultramarathon career in 2008 with an Ironman triathlon. She has since completed dozens of ultras and multi-sport competitions including the Ultraman (10K swim, 265-mile bike and 52.6-mile run).

The mother of two teenage boys, high school cross country coach, philanthropist and member of the Timex Multisport Team, Dolhare is also the founder of Running Works, a regional nonprofit that allows the homeless and abused to rediscover the power of teamwork, discipline, confidence and respect for each other and themselves through sport.

Dolhare said, “I believe that everyone has a gift that can be passed on to others — no exclusions. All it takes is an open heart, a little patience and some willingness. Sports saved me, lifted me up when I needed it most. I want to return the favor. I want to believe in others when they do not believe in themselves.” Look for Dolhare’s Running Works runners in the race. Many will be wearing royal blue shirts.

Running her first race in quite some time will be Ivey Cline, a Landis resident. Cline was training for a December half marathon at Kiawah when diagnosed in October 2014 with breast cancer. She put her training on hold for treatment and surgery. Cline said, “With a great outlook and a bright new year, I am looking forward to Winter Flight 2016 for getting me back on track for a half marathon this year. Running again is exhilarating and stress relieving, my favorite way of exercising. To me, running means peak physical fitness.”

Multiple-time female Winter Flight champion Molly Nunn will wear No. 1, Dolhare will wear No. 2, and Cline will wear No. 3.

While the women’s field will be loaded with interesting athletes this year, notably missing from the men’s side will be last year’s overall winner. Eliud “Heldy” Ngetich, a rising world-class runner from Kenya, was not able to work Winter Flight into his racing schedule for 2016. Last year’s effort netted Ngetich the fastest 8K performance in North Carolina history. He said, “I am sorry that I won’t make this year’s edition of Winter Flight. I am just not ready with good fitness, and I need to do some thorough training because I also have big races coming up in February and March.”

Runners are already registered from four states including Ohio. I expect to double that by race day. Approximately 300 runners and walkers participated last year.

The course is nationally certified by the United States Association of Track and Field. Runners and walkers will start in front of Goodman Gym on the Catawba College campus and take Yost Street to Statesville Boulevard. They will turn right and head west on Statesville, before turning right on Milford Drive. Health 5K walkers will turn around near the corner of Milford and Akron Drive and head back to Catawba. Runners will continue out to another right and mile 2 on Jake Alexander Extension. Another right, just past mile 3, on Highway 601/Innes Street brings the runners past mile 4 and back to Catawba’s campus, and another right on North Park Drive and a left on Yost. Runners will approach the finish line as they turn onto the Shuford Stadium track and a half lap ending on the home side to close out the race.

Prime sites for spectators will be at the start and finish on the Catawba campus, anywhere along Milford Drive and near Isenberg School.

Online registration remains open this week at www.sportoften.com . A printable brochure can be mailed in and is available at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org . Entrants in the competitive 8K, the 5K Health Walk and the half-mile fun run can also register next Sunday at Catawba College before the events from noon to 2 p.m.

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net. Learn more at www.Ulearn2run.com

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