Morganton, North Carolina
December 31, 2011 - January 1, 2012
Freedom Park
New Year's Ultra Run
This year's Freedom Park New Year's Ultra Run was highlighted by the promise of some outstanding performances, particularly in the 24HR division. In the end, the promise held true, with a surprise or two along the way.

Weather conditions for this year's races were arguably the best we've had: clear and 43°F at the 8:00am start on Saturday, rising to 62°F at 3:00pm with gusty winds. Temperatures fell steadily after 3:00pm Saturday, to a low of 31°F near 7:00am New Year's Day. The sky remained clear throughout, with zero precipitation.

Anne Riddle-Lundblad (F/45, Swannanoa, NC) maintained a strong, consistent pace, claimed the lead at the 16:36 mark and never looked back as she rolled up a course-record 140.26 miles, good for first overall finish in the 24HR division. Sabrina Moran (F/25, Sussex, NJ) held a commanding lead through the first 16 hours, completing the first 102 laps (100.56 miles) in a sizzling 15:39:49 -- a 9:20 pace -- before retiring after lap 104. Despite leaving the course after just 16:20, her mileage total of 102.54 was good enough to earn her the 2nd female and 3rd overall finish. Annette Bednosky (F/45, Jefferson, NC), the 2008-09 champion, withdrew at the 12:39 mark with 74.93 miles, capturing 3rd female and 9th overall finish honors.

Ms. Riddle-Lundblad's performance ranks as the 4th all-time best North American women's 24HR performance, according to UltraRunning Online. Sabrina Moran's 15:39:49 time through 100.56 miles represents the 8th fastest ever North American women's 100 mile finish, according to the same source.

On the men's side, first-time 24HR runner Mark Rostan (M/42, Valdese, NC), remained close behind veteran ultrarunner David Luljak (M/56, Baltimore, MD) until taking the lead on lap 76 and going on to complete 125.79 miles, doubling the distance of his previous long run, a 100K earlier in 2011. Luljak took a lengthy break during the wee hours before eventually finishing with 92.68 miles, capturing 2nd male and fourth overall. Every-year participant Mike Skara (M/40, Livingston, NJ), who has never finished worse than 11th overall, added another strong performance, with 92.47 miles. This finish earned Mike the 3rd male and 5th overall finish place. Over all four years of the 24HR event, Mike has amassed 399.97 miles -- our top performer to date!

In the 12HR division, Paul Starling (M/44, Dunn, NC) was able to build just enough of a gap over Michael Dacar (M/35, Durham, NC) and hold on to claim the top overall finish with 53.89 miles. Dacar finished 2nd overall with 51.27 miles, while James Plant (M/47, Sanford, NC) and Christopher Knodel (M/38, Goldston, NC) enjoyed what appeared to be a long fun-run together (these guys had way too much fun) finishing in a tie for third overall at 50.36 miles. Jodie Strong (F/28, Charlotte, NC) had never run beyond the marathon distance but managed to roll up an impressive 39.94 miles -- good for 1st female and 5th place overall!

Scot Hayward (M/48, Hudson, NC) also competed in the 12HR division, but elected to register and run with the 8:00am 24HR participants, making him ineligible for awards in the 12HR division. Hayward completed 61.54 miles in 12 hours -- one of the strongest 12HR performances of the day -- which earned him 17th overall in the 24HR division!

In the new marathon division, Stan Austin (M/35, Matthews, NC) claimed first place overall in 3:29:40. Laura MacLean (F/43, Willow Spring, NC) was first female and 2nd overall finisher, with a time of 3:59:00. Laura ran much of the early part of the race with her nephew, Andrew Capen (M/20, Banner Elk, NC), who traveled to Morganton for his first marathon. Andrew made good in his first attempt at the 26.22 mile distance, finishing 3rd overall in a time of 5:06:43. Congratulations, Andrew!

This year also featured two half marathon options, which took place at 10:00am and 10:00pm.

In the early race, Kimberly Sweetland (F/38, Arden, NC) and Emily Chaney (F/30, Huntington, WV) assumed the lead from the start and battled all the way to the finish, with Sweetland crossing first in 1:33:29.9. Chaney finished less than 3 seconds behind, claiming 2nd overall in 1:33:32. Third overall and first male finisher was Richard Hefner (M/59, Gastonia, NC), who completed the course in a very strong 1:38:55. Kristen Hall (F/21, Boone, NC) traveled to Morganton to compete in her first half marathon, completing the race in 2:31:06, despite arriving at the starting line 2 minutes after the race started. Way to go, Kristen.

Two intrepid runners showed up for the night-time running of the half, with Allison Dunn (F/25, Morganton, NC) finishing in 2:32:19, and Carole Mueller-Brumbaugh (F/57, Rockford, MI) finishing 2nd in 2:39.28.

For complete results, follow these links:

24HR/12HR Overall Results
24HR Lap Splits
12HR Lap Splits
Marathon & Half Marathon Overall Results

Thanks to everyone who came out to compete!

One final note: Staff Sergeant German Sanchez, currently serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, wanted to come to Morganton for the New Year's Ultra Run but could not get the time off. Rather than accepting his fate he found another way to to participate: he ran his 24HR on a 3.5 mile loop on base in Afghanistan. A note from Sergeant Sanchez appears below. We thought it only fitting to include his performance on our 24HR results; it's the least we can do for a soldier who spent his New Year's holiday running around in circles for 24 hours. How crazy is that?

German Sanchez has sent you a message using your contact form at: <>

Senders email: ------------------

Hello, I am SSG Sanchez. I am a soldier currently serving in Afghanistan. My best friend (Joshua D. Gandy) participated in your recent New Year's 24 Hour Ultra. We are always pushing each other to challenge ourselves both physically and psychologically. When he told me that he was participating in this amazing event, I knew instantly that I had put myself through the same challenge.

Thankfully, we have the luxury of being able to run on a 3.5 mile track on our base. I had the support of my co-workers as I was subjecting myself through this grueling challenge.

I started my run at exactly 5:30pm local Afghan Time (8:00am EST). I finished the run with a total of 16 laps around our 3.5 mile track which is a grand total of 56 miles. I can't begin to tell you how tempting it was to quit, especially when I was the only one (probably in all of Afghanistan) running an ultra marathon.

Either way, this was an experience that I will truly never forget! And one that me and Joshua can relate together.

Thank you so very much for providing people the opportunity to shatter mental barriers and realizing that "normal is a repeating cycle on a washing machine".


SSG German Sanchez
129th EOD Co.
FOB Fenty, Afghanistan