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Shreding Trails

Run for Ray Trail
Sat., Feb. 23rd, 7 a.m.
Brunswick Nature Park,
River Road NC 133

“Ray was everything to everyone who knew him,” Kerry Underhill says of her husband. “He was that true friend you could go to in times of crisis. I was always in awe of the person he was.”

Held in honor of the Ray Underhill, who passed away in 2008 due to complications from Chordoma, The Run for Ray Trail event will take place on February 23rd at Brunswick Nature Park in Leland. Proceeds raised will go to the Chordoma Foundation. An extremely rare cancer, involving a tumor at the base of his brain, the foundation was started in 2007 by Josh Sommer, a Chordoma cancer survivor and activist.

Underhill was a pro-skateboarder for Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade, a collective of the best skateboarders the sport could offer during its maturation in the late ‘80s. Best buddies with old-school skateboarders like Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and other pioneers of early skateboarding, Underhill and friends are the ones who built the sport from the ground up.
Underhill skated for many years for Powel-Peralta before getting married and moving to the East Coast. In Wilmington he served as art director at Eastern Skate and Supply (6612 Amsterdam Way, Wilmington), working with their graphics department to create board designs. He became a father to his son, Keaton, in 1995 and had a daughter, Olivia, in 2000.

Diagnosed with Chordoma in 2006, he fought for two years, undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy. He passed away August 1st, 2008. Underhill’s condition was so rare, there was no known protocol to try and counter the disease besides surgeries and proton radiation.

“Even during his illness, I was in awe of his courage and strength,” his wife continues. “I wish I had his patience, sense of humor, wit and cooking abilities. During his illness, the things that we all take for granted in life became such a chore for Ray. No matter the ordeal brought to us, the tumor never robbed him of his spirit, his love for life [or] his love for his family.”

He will be remembered for his achievements both on the skateboard, as well as his kindness and outgoing spirit within the community through the Run for Ray Trail. There are three trail lengths the runners can choose to embark upon, including a 3-mile, 9-mile and 18-mile track (two of the 9-mile trails). Runners should keep in mind that this is a trail-running event, and some of the terrain can be technical, hilly and challenging in certain areas; though this is much of the fun that comes from trail running.

Those who plan to enter should attend the Early Packet Pickup on Friday, February 22nd, at Two Wheeler Dealer at 4408 Wrightsville Avenue, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. This includes the Run for Ray T-shirt and each runner’s personal number. Participants can also pick up their packets the day of the race under the gazebo/picnic area of the park, which will begin at 7 a.m. The longer trails [18 and 9 miles] will begin around 8:30 a.m. and the 3-mile trail will begin closer to 9 a.m. Registration is also available online at

encore interviewed John Morgan, a friend of Underhill’s and the director and creator of the fund-raising event.

encore (e): How did the connection from skateboarding to trail running come about?
John Morgan (JM): Basically, a guy I worked with, Bobby Brandon, and I were into running trails. We were brainstorming a way to help out the family and do what we could for Ray, so we set up this event to raise money for the Ray Underhill Foundation. The foundation gives proceeds to both Ray’s family and donates to the Chordoma Foundation. Josh Sommer, the founder of CF, is a survivor of Chordoma himself. He’ll actually be there running in the race on Saturday, so it’s pretty exciting to see all this support.

e: How hard can runners expect the trails to be?
JM: It’s not the most technical trail I’ve ever run; the main thing is to be conscious of following runners; let them past if they’re going faster than you and sort of ease to the side of the trail. We don’t allow headphones either so you can hear behind you, mainly because it’s a single track. We want everyone to be safe out there, but we also want to allow faster runners to run their best time.

e: Is it a trail that requires any certain shoes or can any running shoe conquer it?
JM: Some trails you need specific trail shoes, but you won’t need anything like that on this one. It’s good on your knees.

e: I saw on your website that runners were holding decks up at the end of the race.
JM: Those are given to the top three finishers, both male and female of each distance division [3, 9, and 18 miles]. They all get a custom board from Powell-Peralta. They’ve been a longtime sponsor; they’ve been making and donating the boards for us for years. However, everybody this year that finishes the race will get a little something nice we’ve planned out.

e: How successful has the event been in the past couple of years?
JM: Every year it’s been insane. Over four years, we’ve raised give or take 20,000 dollars. We usually handle around 300 runners per event, it’s always been an awesome turn out.
In addition to the fund raising and racing, The Southhammock Bluegrass band will also be performing the morning of the race for those who are staying back and supporting runners.

Supporters of the event include a long list of active companies in both the Wilmington community and the rest of the country. Admission ranges anywhere from $25 to $45 depending on what length participants plan on running. All major credit cards are accepted both at the early pickup or on the day of the event.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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