Cary man tests his limits running across North Carolina

New Years Day 2015 005

Story and Photos by Teri Saylor

Fueled by biscuits, waffles, hotdogs, ice cream, and a single cold Budweiser, Dave Cockman plowed through North Carolina on a pair of legs that carried him over 20 counties and more than 660 miles over two weeks on his quest to run from the Tennessee border at Murphy to the Atlantic Ocean at Nags Head.

Cockman, 57, who lives in Cary, started his journey in Murphy at 7:00 a.m. on April 4 and on April 18, he took his victory lap on Jennette’s Pier at 7:28 p.m.

When he finished his journey at the end of the pier overlooking the sea, Cockman checked the GPS strapped on his wrist and announced he had covered 664.44 miles in 14 days, 11 hours, and 28 minutes.

He hopes that was good enough to set a speed record for running from Murphy to Manteo.

This was the greatest 14-day adventure I have ever had,” he announced to a dozen friends, family and well-wishers who were in Nags Head to run the Flying Pirate Half Marathon and had gathered at the pier to greet him at the finish.

I cannot be more excited to be standing here on Jennette’s Pier,” he said. “I have run as far east as I can go, after starting out in the far western part of the state.”

Thanks to social media, newspapers and broadcast coverage, Cockman became a familiar figure along U.S. Highway 64, his chosen route across the state. He ran on busy highways and scenic rural roads, following the original highway, which often took him off the beaten path.

He ran roughly 50 miles a day and managed a steady pace, averaging four miles an hour. For the final portion of the run on Saturday, he covered 45.75 miles, running from Columbia to Nags Head. It took 11 hours.

Dave Cockman takes a water break at a convenience store along U.S. Highway 64 near Pittsboro (800x533)

In Pittsboro on April 13, Cockman took a refreshment break at a convenience store and explained he had slept no more than two hours the night before. He was anxious about his schedule. Pain in his left leg had slowed him down and forced him to make an unexpected stop in Lexington. When he found a place to lay his head for the night, he was eight miles off course.

Trying to make up for lost time, he ran 62-miles the next day, from Lexington to Siler City, arriving at a hotel at 3:30 a.m.

He rubbed his left calf, and described the pain.

It’s a shooting pain,” he said. “It starts in the back of my knee and radiates to my calf. But it feels okay as long as I keep running.”

Cockman, at 5’10”, is a durable athlete who has completed more than 40 ultra marathons. Last year, he wrapped up the Grand Slam of Ultra Running, consisting of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run, the the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run.

In 2013, Cockman ran the Tuna Relay which consists of teams of runners taking turns running to cover 200 miles from Garner to Atlantic Beach.

Cockman ran all 200 miles by himself.

Two years ago, Dave cooked up his most audacious goal yet – to run across North Carolina in a single, continuous ultra marathon.

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For Cockman, this journey was a pilgrimage to find his physical, mental and emotional limits – if he has any.

He is also raising money to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a 15-year old nonprofit organization benefiting wounded war veterans and their families. In 2010 the organization completed a 72,000 square foot medical facility on the Navy campus at Bethesda, Md. to treat veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Two years ago, the Fund launched a campaign to build nine satellite centers at military bases across the country. Two of these facilities, called Intrepid Spirit Centers, are in North Carolina – one at Camp LeJeune and the other at Ft. Bragg.

Cockman, who has a fundraising page on his website www.murphytomanteo.org, had raised over $5,000 by the end of the run and expects the total to crest $7,000.

The money Cockman is raising will help pay for the Intrepid Spirit Center at Ft. Carson, Co., according to David Winters, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

I am amazed at what he is doing,” Winters said in a phone conversation. “A few people have raised money for us through physical activities, but to do what Dave is doing, roughly two marathons a day for two weeks, boggles the mind.”

Cockman, who ran his race mostly alone, carried what he needed in a small backpack – a few clothing items and supplies such as sunscreen and toiletries as well as cash and credit cards for his daily expenses. Two small, fluttering American flags attached to his backpack symbolized his devotion to wounded war veterans.

Along the way, strangers stopped to greet him and donate to his fund. He ended his run with more than $1,000 in cash.

The high point of my trip so far is the people I have met,” he said in Pittsboro. “They are treating me like a rock star. People are even asking me for my autograph.”

In Murphy, the local fire department escorted him for 20 miles, and in Hayesville and Lake Lure, he had a police escort.

The low points came during the darkness of night when he ran along the highway alone, heading for his next rest stop.

Some nights he ran into the wee hours.

I don’t like to run at night. It’s very dangerous,” he said.

Even though he wore a reflective vest, flashers and a head lamp, he couldn’t be too careful. He always ran facing traffic and often saw vehicles coming right at him.

I could tell people were looking at me and they sometimes drifted toward me,” he said. “I got very scared. There are lots of big semis out there, and late at night when I was very tired, I had to fight to keep my wits about me.”

Dave Cockman approaches Nags Head (800x501)

Ron Wahula, City of Oaks Marathon race director and director of the Raleigh Galloway marathon program, complimented Cockman from his booth at the recent Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Expo.

What Dave is doing is amazingly difficult. To be out on the roads unsupported and alone,” Wahula said. “This is the farthest he’s ever run before, and he’s pushing himself into unknown territory.”

Two years ago, Wahula completed the Umstead 100-Endurance Run, a 100-mile ultra marathon and imagines how Cockman feels running long miles day in and day out.

He trained, he’s prepared, and he’s organized,” Wahula said. “It will also take a little luck to push him through, but Dave’s a special guy. He has tremendous durability and a tremendous heart.”

Dave Cockman runs through Manteo (800x533)

 

Cockman is a senior systems engineer with Itron, a company that makes utility meters. He uses vacation time for his running endeavors. His company also offers 32 hours a year for employees to use toward charitable causes, and he’s tapping into those hours for his cross-state run too.

According to his boss, Randy Owen, Cockman’s intensity in the workplace matches his zeal for running. His entire team has been tracking his progress across the state, and fellow employees have donated approximately $600 towards Cockman’s fundraising effort, which the company will match, according to Owen.

It has been a lot of fun for our department to live vicariously through Dave’s exploits,” Owen said.“We have been impressed and motivated by his dedication to reach his goals while at the same time being an exemplary employee in the office.”

Without having a scale, Cockman doesn’t know exactly how much weight has melted off his normal 167-pound frame, but he estimates he’s at least 25 pounds lighter than he was when he started his run.

Dave Cockman tries to consume as many calories as possible to maintain his weight and energy (533x800)

His favorite road food is biscuits, gravy and waffles. Along the way, he took advantage of local barbecue joints and scarfed down entire large pizzas, but it did little good. The running burned more calories than he could consume.

Near Apex on April 13, several of Cockman’s running buddies joined him for a few miles. They dropped into the Local Bar, a tiny watering hole alongside the highway, where Cockman caught up with friends and a co-worker who stopped by hoping to see him. Another friend showed up with a cooler full of hotdogs. Cockman sat for a spell, resting his legs as he washed down a couple of hotdogs with a cold beer before getting up and continuing on his way toward Raleigh, his overnight stop.

Along the way, friends joined him, first one then two, and like the Pied Piper, he collected runners as he cruised up Chatham Street through Cary, and onto Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, where he and his team, now up to nine, stopped at Snoopy’s. He ate three more hot dogs, drank a cup of sweet tea and signed his autograph for the servers. It was almost midnight when the group headed to the Holiday Inn, where Cockman would rest for the night.

The next morning, two dozen runners mingled with the early morning business crowd at Big Ed’s in City Market to have breakfast with Cockman before sending him off to complete his final 200 miles.

Dave Cockman heads east on U.S. Highway 64 near Pittsboro 2 (800x528)

Cockman downed a large helping of biscuits and gravy, a serving of plain biscuits, four eggs, bacon, a cup of coffee and a glass of milk. Then with a team of companions to keep him company for a few blocks, he set off on New Bern Avenue toward Rocky Mount, pressing onward toward the sea.

Terisaylor@hotmail.com @terisaylor

 

Where we were when we heard the news

The nation paused last week to reflect on the death of President John F. Kennedy, gunned down in a parade along Dallas, Texas roadways.  On November 22, 1963, the world was horrified over his assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald, and those of us old enough to remember have never been able to get the images out of our minds.

Two days later, Oswald was gunned down, live, in full view of stunned parents and even small children watching the assassin’s arrest on national television.

When you consider how scandalized we are over bad words and clothing malfunctions that sneak past FCC controls today, the idea of young kids watching actual murders, in real time on national TV, is crazy.

We remember where we were on that terrible day.

The  Newseum in Washington, DC is displaying a special exhibit on Kennedy’s life, his family, his presidency, and his death.  As part of the programming, visitors are invited to record on Post-It notes where they were when they heard about the assassination.

People posted memories of JFK's assassination

People posted memories of JFK’s assassination on Post-It notes at the Newseum in Washington, DC

The memories are vivid:

I was in high school practicing in the school orchestra.

I wasn’t alive when he was, but I have heard great things about him.

I was home with small children watching TV. We were glued to the TV for days.

I was in elementary school. All the nuns were crying and going from class to class and they were praying for him. We were all sad and left for home early. At home, we bought a new TV to watch the services.

I was 24 years old and at work. I was so scared to go outside because I feared chaos in the streets. I watched for days the carnage on TV and was fired from my job for not calling to say I would…. (unfinished) 

I was in class 6th grade Holy Trinity Catholic School. We all went to church and prayed, then watched TV all weekend.

I was on my lunch break in Syracuse, N.Y. I then wandered aimlessly home after the announcement. 

I was a senior in high school in Hartford, Conn. when Sister Berlignan came into our class and told us the president had been shot. Our immediate concern, in our naiveté was how long it would take him to recover. We did not believe he would die.

I was 8 years old and living in Sao Paolo, Brazil. We had just arrived at our Equestrian Club when one of the stable boys came running out to my family saying that “El Presidente’ Kennedy” was dead. He cried and I cried. The Brazillians loved Kennedy.

I was in 9th grade at Howard Junior High in Wilmette, Ill. In the hallway some kids said our English teacher was crying. It was between periods when we were told what happened by our teachers. School was dismissed early. We all walked home. We watched the television coverage all day, and for many days after.

I was in high school chemistry class. One of the first bulletins said that a secret service agent had also been shot. The daughter of the limousine driver was in my class. I remember she immediately got up and left the school. We didn’t see or hear from her for many days.  I went to the capitol with my mother and best friend. I remember the large, quiet crowds at the Rotunda….

Are you old enough to remember?  Even if you aren’t, those powerful newscasts from 50 years ago vividly bring the events into our living rooms and make them real for you.

Has it really been an entire half century? It seems like yesterday.

Life in the South is best when driven by

Mobile Homes edited

Mobile Homes

Photo Gallery: Life in the South

Life in the south is best when driven by:

Sweet tea. Screen doors. Kudzu. The Blues. Country ham biscuits. Pimento cheese. Dinner on the grounds. Fried chicken. Deviled eggs. Bless your heart. Open windows in February. Porch sitting. Flip flops. Dogwood blossoms. Magnolia trees. Kinfolk. The Piggly Wiggly. Peach ice cream. Bluegrass and banjo picking. Grits and red eye gravy. Convertibles. Myrtle Beach. That giant peach next to the highway in Gaffney. Snapping turtles. Alligators. A mess of fish. The Bible Belt. Tobacco Road. Y’all. Snap beans. Grape leaf pickles. Chow chow. Tennessee Williams. Harper Lee. Selma. Mobile. Birmingham. Sweet Home Alabama. Southern Comfort. Pulled pork barbecue. Brunswick Stew. Hushpuppies. Roadside produce stands. Dirt track racing. Football. Roll, Tide. Bourbon. Mason jars. Moonshine. The Kentucky Derby. The Oakridge Boys. Dixie Melody Boys. Lord have mercy. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Shrimp and grits. The Redneck Riviera. Mama n’ em. Live oaks. Spanish moss. Savannah. Family secrets. Fields of cotton at sunrise. Butterbeans. Creamed corn. Scuppernong grapes and muscadines. June bugs. Tent revivals. Billy Graham. James Taylor. Pepsi. Nabs. Ceiling fans. Krispy Kremes. Tomato sandwiches. Charleston. Asheville. Memphis. Graceland. Beale Street. W.C. Handy. Returning thanks. Big Daddy. Maggie the cat. The Devil’s Stomping Ground. Pretty is as pretty does. Patsy Cline. Loretta Lynn. The Grand Ol’ Opry. R.C. Cola. Moonpies. Collards. Humidity. Banana pudding. The Mississippi Delta. B.B. King. Sun Records. Goo Goo Clusters. Elvis. Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter. Peanuts. Cocolas. Chiggers. Lightning bugs. Bottle trees. Buttermilk. Let me hug your neck. The unbroken circle. Autoharps. Maybelle Carter. Sunday preaching. Amazing Grace. Little Rock. Oxford. William Faulkner. Quentin Compson. Thomas Sutpen. Memory. The good Lord. Chapel Hill. Calabash. Bubba. Sissy. Fried Okra. Dr. Pepper. Cheerwine. Dohickeys. Stanley and Stella. New Orleans. Juke joints. Sweet wine. Snipe hunting. Homemade sin. Jack Daniels. Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Johnny Cash. Norfolk Southern freight trains. Potluck. Watermelon rind pickles. Charlie Daniels. Pecan pie. Big ol’ trucks. Pompoms. Cypress knees. Pralines. Beignets. Community Coffee. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Margaret Mitchell. Civil rights. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Doc Watson. Earl Scruggs. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Tweetsie Railroad. Over yonder. Piddling. Flannery O’Connor. Truman Capote. Little Rock. Charlotte. Richard Petty. Dale Earnhardt. The graveyard. Corn in a jar. Fried tomatoes. Chicken n’ Dumplins. Fish camps. Youngins. The ocean at dawn. Sea turtles. Beach music. Crawdads. Dogwoods. Seersucker. Atticus Finch. Molasses cookies. Mayberry. Andy, Barney and Aunt Bea. Tomato Pie. Eudora Welty. Shelling peas. Snapping beans. Tobacco barns. Going to ride. Fishing in the sun. Give me some sugar. Southern renaissance. Thomas Wolfe. Gospel. Robert Johnson. Charlie Patton. Biloxi. Indianola. Sliced onions and cucumbers. Charlotte. Mashing buttons. Picking blackberries next to the road. Paper sacks. Possums. Face jugs. Saying grace. Yes ma’am. Free Bird. King Cake. Red clay. Maya Angelou. John Hope Franklin. Clarksdale. Atlanta. Sweet onions. Grandmaw. Grandpaw. Fried tomatoes. Cheese straws. Fried zucchini blossoms. Honeysuckle. Extra syllables. Mint julep. Raising Cain. Pig pickings. Grandpaw. Richmond. Monroeville. The Florabama. Margaritaville. Sweet gardenias. Succotash. A place. Mama and Daddy. Home.