Running for life: Johnson, Asciutto, Mabry and more

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Upcoming Richmond County races:
* GNAT Scat 10K in Norman – Oct. 11
* Allison Butler Memorial 5K at Hinson Lake

By Kevin Spradlin

MacKenzie Spradlin | Veronica Carreon-Johnson runs not only for herself, but for Team RWB and for her late cousin, Sgt. Jose R. Escobedo.

MacKenzie Spradlin |
Veronica Carreon-Johnson runs not only for herself, but for Team RWB and for her late cousin, Sgt. Jose R. Escobedo.

ROCKINGHAM — As Veronica Correon-Johnson affixed bib No. 43 to the front of her Team Red, White and Blue shirt for the ninth annual Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic, it was nothing special.

The photo attached to the back, however, was something else.

The 41-year-old from Fayetteville is a member of the Fort Bragg chapter of Team RWB, a nonprofit veterans service group aimed at promoting health and wellness through social and physical activity — including running around a 1.5032-mile sandy loop for an entire day.

And in case the power of Team RWB wasn’t enough for Carreon-Johnson at any point, there was always her cousin, Sgt. Jose R. Escobedo. Escobedo died in Iraq at the age of 32 on March 20, 2009 in a non-combat related death. A photo of him in his military uniform “helps me keep him alive,” Carreon-Johnson said.

Carreon-Johnson said whenever she hits a low point in a long distance race — inevitable in such events — she thinks of her cousin, who helped protect her while he was alive. And though he’s now gone, he continues to come to her aid when needed.

“He always has my back,” Carreon-Johnson said.

She said Escobedo has guided her through finish two 100-mile races and several 50-mile endurance events.

MacKenzie Spradlin |

MacKenzie Spradlin |

Shouldn’t be alive

Peter Asciutto, 55, of Albemarle, didn’t quite meet his projected goal of 55 miles he indicated on his Hinson Lake entry application when he mailed it to race director Jerry Lindstrand.

And by anyone’s standards, that’s just fine. After all, he came up less than four minutes shy of his 55-mile goal. Besidessome might argue the 55-year-old Albemarle resident and business man shouldn’t be alive.

Kevin Spradlin | Pete Asciutto

Kevin Spradlin |
Pete Asciutto

This weekend served as the three-month anniversary of a quintuple artery bypass surgery at CMC NorthEast in Concord. That was June 27, shortly after Asciutto collapsed only 1.1 miles into a short group training run.

“I passed out,” Asciutto said.

The runner behind him had a cellphone, Asciutto said, and he was in an ambulance in about nine minutes. In the ambulance, his heart went into v-tach, “which ain’t good.”

“My heart was strong except for five clogged arteries,” Asciutto said.

After the operation, Asciutto’s otherwise good health allowed him to skip cardio rehab  because he had started a walking regimen immediately. The strong heart, clogged arteries now cleared, aided in his recovery. He toed the start line with more than 300 other runners at 8 a.m. Saturday.

“I had no goals coming in,” he said. “I just wanted to see what I could do.”

Over the weekend, Asciutto took about 18 hours to walk all but the last few of his estimated 51.3 miles. He logged 30 minutes, then another 20 from 1:30 a.m. to the banana lap Sunday. Results aren’t yet official.

The Stanly County business owner and race timer said the Hinson Lake race is special. He just couldn’t stay away from the festivities.

“This is just an awesome event,” Asciutto said.

He helped make it better for others, too. Friday night during packet pick-up at Rotary Lodge, he put the finishing touches on custom signs that were placed along the course an intended to motivate and encourage runners who were weak and weary. He also introduced the traveling gnome, which could be randomly picked up and dropped off at any spot along the course.

From the Czech Republic

After this weekend, Ondrej Prokop might be considered an accidental Hinson Lake veteran. After all, the 52-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic never imagined himself running in Richmond County, N.C.

Kevin Spradlin | Ondrej Prokop

Kevin Spradlin |
Ondrej Prokop

But that’s exactly where he found himself — and vying for a top 10 finish — after he flew to Chapel Hill to visit friend Hana Pichova. He wanted to race during his visit. An Internet search helped him stumble upon the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic.

Prokop called his entry “a great coincidence.”

Brno is the republic’s second largest city in terms of population and area. More than 800,000 people in the greater metropolitan area call Brno home.

Fallen hunters

Nicholas Mabry has a tattoo that might seem unusual. Located across the top of his back between the shoulder blades, in black text, reads, “Fallen hunters.”

And no, he said, it’s not about falling out of a tree stand.

Instead, it is about a group of high school friends whose lives were cut short when they died in a tragic car accident. The 20-year-old Norwood resident was attempting his first ultra marathon — any distance over the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles — and started with experienced ultra runner Lee “Iceman” Watson, of Hamlet.

While Watson didn’t meet his goals, his conservative start helped Mabry meet his — and allowed a few more people to learn about his fallen friends who shared a passion for outdoor recreation.

More ink

David Solomon, of Roxboro, N.C., is no stranger to Richmond County. In June, he placed eighth in the Bethel Moonlight Boogie 50-mile footrace staged at night on the country roads outside of Ellerbe. This weekend was his ninth consecutive Hinson Lake race.

After the sirens sounded at 8 a.m. Sunday to announce the race was over — time was up — Solomon took a seat near overall champion Rich Riopel on the fishing pier overlooking Hinson Lake.

“Do you want to get a picture of my Hinson Lake tattoo,” he asked.

Of course.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

“People don’t know me by my face,” he said. “They know me by my ink.”

That’s not necessarily true. The veteran endurance runner has made a name for himself in Richmond County running lore. Along with other local appearances, Solomon entered the weekend in sixth place on the all-time performers’ list.


Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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