Gotta Run: 40 years for Winter Flight — Feb. 5 is race day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2023

Salisbury and Rowan runners have known about the Winter Flight races for a long time. Most races have a much shorter lifespan, simply because there are challenges to put just one event on. This race has a life of its own and to keep it going for 40 years through sickness, weather, course changes and more as it has evolved into one of the best races in the Southeast is quite special. The year, Feb. 5 is race day and momentum is building for the historic event.

At present, we know that it is at least the fourth oldest race in the state, and I suspect it will become the third oldest this year. Definitely the oldest 8K (4.97 miles) in N.C. status keeps bringing back some of the best competitors, a fun environment and some wonderful personal stories.

Here are just a few highlights over the years. The first Winter Flight was held in 1981, not held in ’82 or ’83 and was then reborn in 1984 as a combination of 5- and 10-mile races. These races originally started and finished at the mural in downtown. The race was moved to Catawba College in 1986, also the year that the venerable 8K distance was introduced. The 8K events were very popular then but have been replaced by the shorter 5Ks as the main race distance over the years since.

The races were postponed by a measles epidemic in 1989, and heavy snow in 1996 and 2005. I remember SRR members having to call race registrants with a plan for the postponement and new race days due to the snow.

In 2001, SRR went online with races and registrations. In 2002, the only course change since 1986 occurred due to new construction for Shuford Stadium at Catawba. The race was actually moved to Millbridge and the Sloan Park area due to COVID for only the 2021 version.

Course records remain with Olympians Hans Koeleman of the Netherlands with his sizzling 23 minutes and 34 seconds in 1988 and Joan Nesbitt of Chapel Hill in 1992 at 26.48. A Kenyan runner took the male record several years ago but was disqualified for illegal substance abuse in various races more than two years later, so it has reverted to Koeleman, a former Nike executive.

In 2003, the Salisbury Rowan Runners began making significant charitable contributions from the race. All proceeds from the 2023 event will again go to Rowan Helping Ministries.

This year’s New Sarum Brewing Winter Flight event kicks off on Feb. 5 with a free half-mile fun run on the track and open to any age at 1:30 p.m. Wheelchairs hit the street at 1:58 p.m., followed by the 5K and featured 8K race that will start at 2 p.m. Registration is available at and by printing the form at

Winter Flight offers tremendous opportunities for participation to runners and walkers of all abilities and age. The fun run is open to anyone, the 5K is a moderate distance open to anyone while the 8K is geared to those who can complete the course in 90 minutes. Special thanks to the City of Salisbury for services provided that allow us to have the race!

The SRR/Sidekick Karate Self-Defense Seminar is set for Jan. 21 from 10 a.m.-noon at the Sidekick Karate dojo on Main Street. To reserve your spot or for any questions about Winter Flight, email me at

And finally, there has been a huge amount of conversation during the last week about vitamin D deficiency after last week’s column. Signs of low vitamin D levels include fatigue, bone and muscle pain, hair loss, anxiety or depression, and lingering sickness. Sunlight is the best source of D, while food sources are salmon, cod, eggs, and fortified yogurt, orange juice and milk. Vitamin D3 is readily available locally where vitamins are sold.

For more information on these events and others, go to