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Snapshot: Glenn Hrinda
Glenn Hrinda. Image above: Glenn Hrinda, a senior research engineer at NASA Langley, trains for ultra races and marathons by running on center and working out in Langley's gym. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Glenn Hrinda just kept running. And running. And running … for 106.25 miles.

On the morning of April 16, he lined up with dozens of other runners who began the 24-hour Ultra Run and Relay Race at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton. When the 7 a.m. end on April 17 neared, Hrinda was told that he was the only one still running and had won. Yet, he kept going.

"I felt great and knew that this was a unique feat for myself, which I may never be able to duplicate," he said.

Third time was a charm for Hrinda, a senior research engineer at NASA Langley, who had tried the race twice before.

"I remembered some of the mistakes I had made in the previous ultras and also how the last 50 [miles] can really zap you. Last year, I went out fast and stayed on the lead loop until 50 but then fell apart and struggled to get 75," he said. "This year was different. I felt a lot better at 50 miles than previous ultras. This year I hit 50 miles in about 10 hours but felt great. I was surprised that I could still run with a lot less muscle fatigue then last year. This greatly encouraged me to keep on going, even after the rain."

During the race, the sprinkles turned into a downpour. His upper body stayed dry from his raincoat, but the rest of him was soaked and so was the trail.

When night approached, his headlamp turned the falling rain into twinkles and the trail was hard to see. But he continued on the course, a 3.75-mile loop, with completion and a cause on his mind.

"The race has great significance, not just because I ran the race in a manner to win, but also because I was able to remember and honor those in my life that were cut down by cancer," Hrinda said.

NASA Langley ultra runners.
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Glenn Hrinda (left) received support from Langley employees Walt Bruce and David Lockard (right) during the 24-hour Ultra Run and Relay Race at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

When the rain and wind disappeared, a good pace, a pair of dry shoes and a lot of encouragement got him back on track.

"What worked for me was going out slow and having support from friends and my family. A friend from work, Walt Bruce, knew I ran last year and decided to come out and try for 50. I ran with him for the first few hours, going nice and easy," Hrinda said. "It sure was nice to get through a chunk of the early miles with friendly conversation and encouragement. Later in the day, Walt finished his 50 by walking out and back to the parking cones with his wife and two kids."

David Lockard, a research aerospace engineer at Langley, also came out to run and provide encouragement in the morning hours.

And three of Hrinda's five children ran by his side.

"My oldest son Josh, 17, ran a loop with me in the early evening. After the rain, I had more support from my youngest son Zachery, 14, daughter Hannah, 15, and her best friend, who came out to walk a loop," he said.

His wife brought him food at night to keep him fueled and focused. His 24-hour assortment included chicken noodle soup, salted boiled potatoes, chips, kettle popcorn, beef jerky, a Big Mac and fries, a couple of slices of pizza, sports drinks, soda, coffee and plenty of water.

When the race was won, Hrinda went home to shower and still managed to make it to church at Liberty Baptist, where he teaches Sunday school to middle-school-aged boys.

"I told them that if their 50-year-old teacher can make it on time to class after doing 100, they have no excuse for being lazy," he said.

He can offer the same experience to the youth that he coaches through Upward's basketball program.

Hrinda recognized a "continual commitment" by the race's coordinator, George Nelson. Hrinda is making his own commitment to return again to race in the ultra next year.

He trains by lifting weights and running on the treadmill at Langley's gym. Depending on his meeting schedule at Langley, he runs eight to 10 miles at lunch around a track located at Langley Air Force Base.

When he isn't training to run, Hrinda is working to get others into space. "My current responsibly is leading the core stage for the new Space Launch System effort," he said.

Another accomplishment that stands out for Hrinda is when his children attended his PhD graduation from Old Dominion University (ODU).

He hopes, one day, to be able to teach engineering structures at a university.

He also wants to go up the Eiffel Tower.

He could attempt to run up the 1,665 stairs, but public access to the summit is by elevator only, so he'd have to stand still for a bit.

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