Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer – George Nelsen’s Race Report

24hourlogogn_virginia2Posted on the Ultralist:
Date:    Mon, 27 Apr 2009 14:47:53 -0400
From:    “Nelsen, George W. CTR USJFCOM JFL”
Subject: Race Report: Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer

The 6th Annual Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer was once again a great success.  It seems to get better each year.  It was held as usual on a flat, 3.75 mile out-and-back loop trail at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton Virginia from 7:00 a.m. 18 April until 7:00 a.m. 19 April.  The weather was almost perfect with highs in the low 70s, lows in the
mid-50s, low humidity, and sunny skies.

The race was noteworthy in many ways.  A new men’s course record was set.  Joe Ninke of Sebastian, FL set a new men’s record of 120 miles, followed closely by Stuart Kern of Silver Spring, MD who ran 119.75 miles.  Both were well over the previous record of 115 miles.  A total of 92 people (40 individual ultrarunners (a new high) and six teams) ran or walked at least one loop.  48 people ran 50 or more miles, while 58 people ran at least an ultra of 30 miles.  In doing so we raised a new record of over $7000.

For the first time at this event, the men’s race came down to the wire! Joe Ninke had been running comfortably all day long and had a big lead over the next runner, Stuart Kern.  But then, with about 3 hours to go Joe slowed dramatically to an unsteady walk, while Stuart looked strong and steadily gained on him.  With a little over an hour to go and his
lead almost gone, all of a sudden Joe “came back to life” and took off running fast again.  Stuart kept after him and for the next hour neither runner would give an inch.  Stuart closed to within a quarter mile, but Joe held on for the win.  Both men were doing about 7:30 minute miles the last hour.  Amazing!

As usual, a great human interest story emerged again this year.  One of the Teams was “Called Captain Cody’s Crew of Beach Bound Pirates.”  It was formed in early March in honor of 6-year old Cody Johnson who had just passed away from cancer.  On his second birthday he was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma. After chemo therapy, stem cell transplants and some very painful and toxic drugs, his cancer seemed to have been beaten. In 2007 the cancer returned. Doctors removed 85% of Cody’s liver and he continued with more aggressive treatments until finally losing
his battle on March 6th, 2009.

In 2005 his father Mickey Johnson started a blog for Cody which he updated daily. Thousands of people from all over the world checked in on Cody during those years, including the masters’ forum at Runners World.  Mickey developed many friends there who had been praying for Cody for years.  This is how “Cody’s Crew” was born.  Bill Allen (who held the 2007 men’s course record) was a friend of Mickey and suggested they form a team.  With Cody as the motivation, they easily set a new team total mileage record of 530 miles with 9 of 10 members running at least 50 miles.  Many had never run more than a half marathon before.  They came from Ohio, New Jersey, Mississippi, Maryland, and northern Virginia. One (Shannon McGinn) even skipped running Boston to do this race for Cody! More information about Cody is at or

The women’s winner with 82.5 miles, Dana Casanave, had never run more than 50 miles, but looked strong all day and was never challenged. 66-year old Terri Hayes came from South Carolina to run her age on her birthday, as she does each year.  She had no trouble, covering 71.5 miles as the second place woman.  Skip Carroll ran 75 miles, having
never covered more than 22 miles before.  Marietta Sparacino, a sergeant from Fort Eustis finished 50 miles without ever having run more than six miles.

As he did last year, David Snipes, trying for a “double 50,” first ran the Bull Run 50 miler in Manassas, VA, then drove 3 hours to Sandy Bottom and tried to do 50 more miles.  Unfortunately Dave had stomach issues at night and only managed another 15 miles.  As in other years, this was the first venture into the ultra world for many of the runners,
allowing most to run/walk much farther than they ever have before.  That is what I get the most satisfaction from —- seeing so many people successfully challenge their limits.  Many move on to higher levels in the “ultra world.”
Once again the Ranger staff at Sandy Bottom was outstanding in their support.  Every need we had was anticipated and taken care of.  And as always, the volunteers from the Peninsula Track Club were critical to the success of the event.  This year I also had several outstanding Sergeants from the NCO Academy at Fort Eustis help out.  Based on feedback from the participants we’ll see you next year at the 7th edition.  Same time, same place. The home of multiday running news and events.

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