University City

31-mile road race attracting some elite runners

Whether you think standard 26.2 miles of a traditional marathon run is just a walk in the park, or you tend to prefer a walk in the park, one local service organization has a running event coming up for anyone interested in combining great exercise with great philanthropy.

The Knights of Columbus Council 10505 of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in University City is organizing an Ultra Run Feb. 4, combining the rigors of a 50-kilometer (31.1-mile) ultra-marathon with the more manageable 10K run.

"We are excited to bring the first Ultra Run to Charlotte," said Paul Sparrow, Grand Knight of the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights group. "We have runners from all over the country registered, and we look forward to making this an annual event that will create the opportunity to give back to several organizations in the community."

The two races will be run on a 3.1-mile loop along the Charlotte Greenway . Each will start at Countryside Montessori School (9026 Mallard Creek Road) and continue along the greenway up to East Mallard Creek Road at North Tryon Street. All ultra-runners who finish the 50K race will be awarded a medal for completion.

Online registration is open through Jan. 31 for the event, sanctioned by USA Track & Field. More information and registration instructions are available at Unless registration is full, on-site registration will be available until about one hour before the 8 a.m. start.

Entry fees ($30 for the 10K and $70 for the 50K) will go toward charities supported by the Knights of Columbus, including the Least Among My Brethren (LAMB) Foundation, a nonprofit that assists disabled North Carolinians and supports events including Special Olympics.

According to race director Finian Curran, more than 80 runners have registered already, including nearly 50 runners from eight states who will take up the ultra-marathon challenge. The field includes a former Olympic-trials-caliber runner and others considered to be "elite" status in the fairly new sport of competitive ultra-marathon running.

Although other ultra-running events take place in the Carolinas, Curran believes that no similar event of this distance has been held in Charlotte for at least the past five years. So he's hoping this year's race will be the first step to a larger and better-known ultra-running event for Charlotte-area runners in future years.

Curran said he began distance running with a 10K event just five years ago and has progressed to competing earlier this year in a 100-mile endurance run.

"There are a lot of very experienced ultra-runners registered," Curran said, "but we look forward to many others coming out either to join the 10K run or to line the greenway to cheer the runners on."

Organizers expect the top runners to complete their 50 kilometers in just over three hours. But weather permitting, the course layout, aid stations and volunteer staff will stay on the course for up to eight hours, allowing enough time for anyone to run at his or her own pace.