Up, up, up, that’s the only way to describe the Marathon that I finished this past Saturday! Grandfather Mountain Marathon has been ranked as one of the top ten hardest marathons in America 16 years running! Now I know why…UP, UP, UP! It is definitely the hardest 26.2 miles that I have ever done. Miles 16-19 felt like we were struggling to go nowhere due to the steep grade on the, middle of nowhere, gravel road! My wife Heather said she became very nervous when the SHUDDLE BUS she was riding to the top in, had trouble making it up the hill…UP, UP, UP!
It was an incredible race. We were able to start on the Appalachian State University Track, located inside the football stadium. It was really cool to be able to stand on the 50 yard line of the stadium. The gun went off and we ran twice around the track and then DOWN, yes I said down, 2 miles to the elevation of 3100 ft. If I forget to tell you, we finished at 4279 ft! After that, it was basically all uphill, or downhill depending on how you felt, from there. The elevation chart said that we would climb and descend every two or so miles until we hit mile 13. Well, I don’t remember descending at any point in those 13 miles! I’m sure that we did but I guess my idea of descending is very different from theirs. After 13, we just went up for a very long time. We were supposed to level off around mile 19, but once again where the leveling off was I’m not sure. One of the hardest parts of the race was when we actually did go down hill. On mile 22 we went down hill for maybe a quarter of a mile, and my hips, knees and ankles were hurting so bad in that short part that I couldn’t wait to go UP HILL again! My body was so used to climbing, that when I was faced with going downhill my legs hurt so bad I thought about lying down and rolling to the bottom!
The finish was just as brutal as the rest of the race. Up hill until the very end when we got to run on the Highland Scottish games nice level track for ¾ of a lap. Everyone was cheering us on as we slowly and painfully completed the race. A great accomplishment for everyone who finished! I was able to complete the race in 3:45, which put me 43rd out of 475 and 3rd in my age group! Not bad for one of the hardest races in America!
The post race celebration wasn’t what I was hoping for due in part to NO BEER at the festival. But the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock made up for it with great restaurants and beers and beautiful scenery throughout. I have found my favorite post race meal at The Mellow Mushroom, a cold IPA and an Avocado Hoagie. Absolutely awesome! A great place to get away with just my wife and enjoy some adult time. All in all if you want a real challenge in an incredibly beautiful place with a lot of things to see and do afterwards, this is the race for you. I am proud to be one of the few who have beaten the mountain. 6 of 12 done, now on to the 7th!