|October 17, 1998||Gail Ierardi-1st Woman
"Record Number of Ultra Runners Pursuing
Dreams and Goals"
By David Horton
When I started the MMTR in 1983, I wanted it to someday be the biggest ultra in the U.S. However, recently I decided that "was not" something I wanted after all. After a record number of starters this year (221), we are going to have a cut-off at some number next year (somewhere between 200 & 240). In 1997, we started 169 runners. Several weeks prior to Bull Run Run, Scott Mills also had to cut the field off for his race at 200 runners. The number of people seeking greater challenges is increasing and that is a good problem. However, there is always some point where numbers place great demands on pre & post race festivities and supplies at aid stations. I want to see our race continue to be a first class event that cares for every runner. We can't do this if our numbers continue to increase.
Runners gathered from 28 states, Canada, and England to challenge 50 miles in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in the changing colors of fall. Earlier in the week, I received a call from three southbound thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) who were hiking near Roanoke, VA. They had heard of the race and wanted to know if they could enter. None of them had run a marathon before, much less an ultra. But they were excited and wanted to give it a shot! This continues a trend of having A.T. thru-hikers participate in our event a trend started in 1991 by Scott (Maineak) Grierson and David (Lone Wolf) Blair.
The last two weeks in preparation for the MMTR 50 is the most difficult time for me all year. My stomach hurt the entire time, I slept poorly, and I had chest pain. Someone told me that I should have it down pat having done it for 16 years. However, I compare it to preparing for a hurricane. You plan and prepare and do all that you can, yet when it hits, it is unbelievably chaotic and stressful. I can see why most race directors seldom last more than 10-15 years. How many large ultras do you know that have been directed by the same persons for more than 15 years?
We had our best men's and women's field ever. In past years, a sub 8:10 would get you in the top 10. This year I predicted that it would take a sub 8 hours to get in the top 10 and receive a coveted top ten monogrammed golf shirt. As it turned out 10th place was 7:56. Last years winner, Josh Cox, would not be returning this year to defend his course record of 6:57. However, 1995 & 1996 winner and previous course record holder (6:59) Courtney Campbell (Berryville, VA) had his sites on regaining the record. Others who had a legitimate shot at the win were Scott Jurek (Deadwood, SD), Eric Clifton (Crownsville, MD), Ed Kostak (New Hartford, CT), and Ian Torrence (Boulder City, NV). There were other notable runners who could win many ultras with lesser competition: Tim Hewitt, Don Smith, Tom Possert, Steve Webster, Dave Drach, Pete Palmer, Kirk Apt, and Byron Backer.
Heading up the womens field was local favorite, Rebekah Trittipoe who had won the MMTR 1997 and placed 2nd in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Having yet to break 9 hours, Trittipoes goal was to win and to break that barrier.
Gail Ierardi (Georgetown, MA) and Christy Cosgrove (Boxford, MA) were also in contention. Ierardi had set a course record at Bull Run Run in April, and Cosgrove was a sub 3-hour marathoner with a best of 7:32 for 50 miles. These two young women, along with 12 or 13 other runners represented GAC (Gilleys Athletic Club) and James Gilford in an outstanding way. The enthusiasm they shared all weekend was a joy and treat to see. We were honored by their presence and hope they return again next year. They seem to have fun and share a special joy in their fellowship.
The women's field included 37 runners the most ever. There were seven couples and two father-son combinations entered this year.
The 16th MMTR weekend started on Friday night with the promised full course buffet of all-you-can-eat pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, salad and dessert. Runners picked up their multi-colored long-sleeved shirts and sweatshirts and exchanged greetings with old friends and made new ones as well.
It was also my privilege to present a monogrammed shirt to Courtney Campbell for setting the speed record on the Long Trail this summer.
We were once again fortunate to be sponsored by Dr. Frank Villa (Optometrist), Conquest and Powerfood. After the first two aid stations, the replacement drink,Conquest, Power Bites, and Power Gel were available to runners. A smorgasbord of other items was available as well.
All 16 years of the MMTR have seen the race aided by the help of the Lynchburg Amateur Radio (LARC). They have been invaluable in their assistance and support. The 6:30 a.m. start is dark or it would be it weren't for the floodlights lit up by Doug Harrington of the LARC.
The temperature at the start was around 45° , however, it did not remain there long. By 10:00 a.m., it was 60° , later reaching a high of 75° to 80° much too hot for this time of the year and high up in the mountains. This contributed to a very high drop out rate.
Clifton jumped out to a 4 minute lead over Campbell by aid station 4 (11.2 miles). Two minutes behind Campbell was Eric Grossman (Louisville, KY), a first time ultra runner but a 2:29 marathoner. Jurek was another minute behind, with Kostak and Hewitt another two minutes back. Cliftons lead stayed between 3 and 5 minutes through 24.6 miles. By aid station 10 (26.9 miles), Campbell was only 2 minutes behind and Clifton looked beat. After the long climb up Buck Mountain, Campbell overtook Clifton and increased his lead to 11 minutes by the time he entered the 5 mile loop (33.6 miles). Campbell was on record pace at this point, but the heat and the pace took its toll. However, he cruised in for his third victory in four years with a time of 7:10:47.
Clifton hung on gamely and finished in 2nd with a time of 7:19:32. Torrence was back in the field for the early part of the race, but came on strong to take third place in 7:25:31.
The womens race began as a three-way competition. Trittipoe, Cosgrove, and Ierardi all came into aid station 2 (5.7 miles) about the same time. But by aid station 6 (17.5 miles) Cosgrove & Ierardi had built their lead over Trittipoe to 6 minutes. They maintained about the same pace all the way to the entrance to the loop (33.6 miles). Entering the loop, the GAC duo had a 7 minute lead on Trittipoe. From this point on, however, Ierardi pulled away from Cosgrove and Trittipoe, finishing in 1st place with an outstanding time of 8:43:40 only the fourth woman in 16 years to break 9 hours. Trittipoe chased Cosgrove all the way to the finish, but fell about 1 1/2 minutes short of catching her. Cosgrove captured 2nd place in 8:56:17 and Trittipoe was 3rd with a time of 8:57:56. This is the most women we have had finish under 9 hours in the same year. This makes 6 women in the history of the MMTR which have ran under 9 hours.
Running with her husband Robin, Michelle Kane (Arlington, VA) took 4th place (9:54:52) and Nancy Drach (Leasburg, NC) finished in 5th (9:57:26).
The male and female masters (40-49) awards went to Tim Hewitt (Greensburg, PA -- 7:44:00 -- 6th overall) and Leslie Hunt (Boone, NC -- 10:33:46). The male and female grand masters (50-59) went to Rob Grant (British Columbia, Canada -- 8:51:23, running in Teva sandals) and Lorraine Bunk (Eagle, WI -- 11:09:27). The grand masters (60 and over) went to Al Montgomery (Columbia, SC -- 10:44:30).
With the help of Ultimate Direction, we were able to give Ultimate Direction fanny packs to all sub-12 hour finishers. Many runners expressed their pleasure in receiving an award that was practical and usable.
Runners who complete 10 MMTR races are awarded a monogrammed jacket. The only runner going for his 10th finish this year was Dave Drach (Leesburg, NC). Because of this, I seeded him in 10th place. I really didn't think he could finish in 10th place he didn't either. But much to my surprise and his, Drach was the 10th runner to come into sight of the finish line with a time of 7:56:34. Ten straight years, finishing all ten years, and placing 10th this last year earning a jacket and golf shirt. Nine out of 10 runners that I seeded in the top ten finished there.
The top 10 male and top 5 female finishers were also presented with a monogrammed golf shirt.
Local runners, Rick Brooks (8:31 -- 16th overall) and Rebekah Trittipoe won the Mountain Man and Mountain Woman Award (top local finishers). We had 15 local finishers this year.
One major problem we incurred this year was with runners dropping out, being picked up by their handlers, and not reporting their status to the aid stations. There were a lot of runners that had just disappeared between aid stations. Because of the heat, we spent some anxious moments trying to locate them, only to find out later that they were safe and sound with their handlers. Runners, please, please, please, notify the nearest aid station immediately when you drop out.
Now that I've got most of the race behind me, the course cleaned up, and this article written, I'm starting to think about next year's race already. I would like to direct the MMTR for at least 20 years. Receiving cards, letters, and e-mails from runners and hearing their stories of joy and appreciation makes me want to continue a great tradition, "The Best Trail Race in the East" The MMTR ( sorry Scott Mills.) I hope to see you on October 16, 1999 at least 200 to 240 of you.