Porter a late addition to Hinson Lake field

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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When entry opened on Jan. 1 for the ninth annual Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic, John Porter did not have running on his mind. He was, instead, focused on the health of his father, who was in the hospital at the time. Porter is his primary caregiver.

Registration closed soon after it opened; runners from across the country sent in their entry forms and $24 checks to race director Jerry Lindstrand. There wasn’t a moment to lose to beat the initial cap of 240 runners. And Porter, 48, of Rockingham, wasn’t on the list.

Knowing entry was closed, Porter wrote Lindstrand a note. He included a completed entry form and his own check for $24. He told Lindstrand he knew there were no guarantees and instructed that even if he wasn’t accepted into the field, for him to keep the money and help other runners at the race.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com John Porter, 48, of Rockingham, aims to run 70 miles this weekend in the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. Last year he completed 51.68 miles and suffered from severe dehydration.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
John Porter, 48, of Rockingham, aims to run 70 miles this weekend in the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. Last year he completed 51.68 miles and suffered from severe dehydration.

“I’d have volunteered if I couldn’t run,” Porter said.

Lindstrand, a longtime runner, suffered a gash on top of his head that required three staples and cuts on his head and above his left eye that required stitches after falling during a post-marathon hike with friends. He fell, cracked his head on a rock and landed face down in a pool of water. Rockingham optometrist Don Covington found and saved him.

But some might have wondered if Lindstrand wasn’t still feeling the effects of the blow two weeks later. It was then that Lindstrand announced that everyone on the wait list would be accepted into the 2014 field. This included, and thrilled, Porter.

“He said he didn’t have the heart to turn anybody down,” Porter said Tuesday, less than four full days before the start of the 24-hour race in which 354 runners have been assigned bib numbers to complete as many circuits of the 1.5032-mile loop in a day’s time. Porter will wear bib No. 138.

“I’m not like them other guys,” Porter said.

In his words, Porter is an amateur running. He began running to counter a health condition at the age of 42. It worked. He felt better, so he kept running. During one three-mile run around downtown Rockingham, fellow runner Lee Watson, of Hamlet, told Porter about the Mangum Track Club. Porter, Watson said, might be interested in joining. To become a member, all one had to do was complete a 15-mile “shirt run” on the country roads along the outskirts of Ellerbe.

“I had no idea what the devil MTC was,” Porter said. “I agreed to run the shirt run. I said I didn’t know what it is, but I’ll do it.”

Watson, Porter recalled, had Porter meet up with a bunch of other runners at a hunters’ dog pen near Ellerbe and “put me in a van (and) off we went.”

He’s been running ever since.

“I think they infected me with a virus,” Porter said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com John Porter, left, says the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic is about fellowship. He follows that approach in June at the Bethel Boogie Moonlight 50-miler near Ellerbe while running and talking with Donald Dees, of Aberdeen.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
John Porter, left, says the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic is about fellowship. He follows that approach in June at the Bethel Boogie Moonlight 50-miler near Ellerbe while running and talking with Donald Dees, of Aberdeen.

Over the past six years, Porter has completed four ultra marathons — a footrace any length further than the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance — along with three marathons, two half marathons and then a handful of MTC shirt runs.

One of Porter’s four ultras is last year’s Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic. By all accounts, it did not go well. Porter left the course after about 34 laps, or 51.68 miles after suffering from severe dehydration — so severe, in fact, that he believes it caused his jaw to painfully lock up.

The end of his race came at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday night.

“I didn’t tell anybody I was down,” he said. In fact, he couldn’t speak.

“My mouth was wide open and I could not close it.”

In somewhat of a dehydrated stupor, Porter walked towards the back gate of Hinson Lake, near the Long Drive area, and aimed for the hospital. As he approached the back gate, “my jaw popped back. I stood there for a few minutes at that back gate … and said I was just gonna go home. I laid down in the shower.”

His body revolted.

“Good God, what happened to me?”

By then, though, Porter was well into the the cult that is long distance running.

“I was hoping I could go back” to the race, Porter said after a few hours’ rest, “but I couldn’t overcome that.”

“If I would have not gotten dehydrated, which was my own stupid fault, I would have been around 80 or 90 miles,” Porter said. I think this year I’ve learned a whole lot more about running. I think I’ll be a little smarter.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com John Porter (74) is shown at the start of the Bethel Moonlight Boogie race in Richmond County in June. He plans to hydrate better at this year's Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic to fully enjoy the experience.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
John Porter (74) is shown at the start of the Bethel Moonlight Boogie race in Richmond County in June. He plans to hydrate better at this year’s Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic to fully enjoy the experience.

Still, he said, there are the unknowns.

“Once you get 25 miles or so in, you don’t know what your body’s gonna do.”

All a runner can do, then, is prepare for the inevitable and try to stave it off for as long as possible through proper hydration and nutrition.

“Mine’s 22 to 25 (miles),” Porter said. “If I get past that, I’m pretty good. It’s just a wall you hit or something. You fight through it. But Hinson’s a little bit different. You can walk. It’s how far you can go in 24 hours and enjoy yourself. It’s not try and go out there and try to outrun anybody. It’s more of a fellowship (and) meeting people.”

Along with fellowship, Porter said he also will enter the weekend with a more conservative plan. The race begins at 8 a.m. He hopes to log 50 miles before dark — around 7:15 p.m. if the skies are clear. Once darkness falls, he’ll “just play the night out as it goes.”

He plans to try to complete three laps an hour “as long as I can without really hurting myself, then go from there.”

Once night falls, he hopes to maintain two laps an hour. That’ll allow plenty of time for rest and refueling.

“My main goal this year,” he said, “is just don’t get dehydrated.”

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