The Richmond Observer – Rockingham fun run attracts participants from several counties


ROCKINGHAM – There was frost on the ground on Friday morning when more than 40 runners crossed the first footbridge of the Hitchcock Creek Greenway for the inaugural Choppy Warburton Black Bottle Run.

With 33 degrees starting around 8 a.m., and only 37 degrees at the end, there was still frost on the ground – and on some of their slides – on their return.

The race, hosted by Rockingham Mayor John Hutchinson, with assistance from the Mangum Track Club, is named in honor of James “Choppy” Warburton, a long-distance running champion who ran a 6.5 show. miles to Rockingham on Christmas Eve in 1880.

Hutchinson, wearing a fake mustache, was dressed like the historical figure of the same name.

Warburton was a champion runner from Lancashire, England, who, after winning hundreds of races in his home country, crossed the pond to the United States in the late 1800s.

Some of Warburton’s exploits have included going 10 miles in under an hour and winning a bet that he could go 20 miles in under two hours – which he completed with four minutes to spare, according to Hutchinson.

Warburton’s brother, George, was the boss of the Pee Dee Textile Factory, so he ended up in Richmond County.

Described as “a world famous athlete,” by the Rockingham newspaper at the time, Hutchinson wrote that Choppy donned his tights – “(the) first runner in town … and, possibly, the first local man to wear pantyhose “- and traveled 6.5 miles in 45 minutes doing laps around downtown.

Choppy was also reportedly challenged to run against the local sheriff’s horse – but the sheriff refused, according to Hutchinson.

Friday’s 6.2-mile run took participants around the park loop, up Love Lane and through the hills of the Richmond Park neighborhood – including a jaunt down “Warbutron” Street (that’s supposed to be “Warburton” but is misspelled on the sign) – and eventually to Randolph before returning to the greenway.

Some of the runners were locals, but others came from the surrounding counties of Moore, Montgomery and Stanly, as well as Raleigh and Charlotte, to participate.

Participants received a commemorative black bottle. Choppy was said to have been known for his black bottles, which some people said contained a performance enhancing cocktail made from caffeine, cocaine and strychnine.

“It was very successful,” Hutchinson said as some of the last riders returned. “We had between 40 and 50 runners to come forward. Some came in costume, which was good. And I think everyone really enjoyed the social race.

Being a “fun race” it was not a timed event.

Hutchinson said he plans to make it an annual event for the city.


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