MMT Preview

By Chuck Jackson

See also: Chuck's Report After the Event

When most sensible people are just turning over for the completion of a good night’s sleep, 129 ultra-marathoners will embark early Saturday morning on what will be for many, a 36-hour odyssey that some have called pure hell.

Leading a local contingent of eight runners in the ninth-annual Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-Mile Run competition is Woodstock attorney Kevin Black, who has already finished one century race this year (Umstead, five weeks ago) and hopes to complete four more by October.

The race – the first of three 100-milers scheduled to be run in the northern Shenandoah Valley in the next month – begins at 5 o’clock Saturday morning from Skyline Ranch Resort, in Warren County.

Scheduled for Memorial Day weekend is the second-annual Old Dominion Memorial 100- and 50-miler and the last local human century race of the season is the 25th running of the Old Dominion 100 Mile One-Day Run, scheduled for June 6-7.

What makes MMT unique is the entire 100-mile-plus course is run entirely on rocky trails of the George Washington National Forest. The best vantage points for spectators are Camp Roosevelt and the national forest’s visitor center on U.S. Route 211, east of New Market and of course, the resort headquarters, where runners will begin returning early Sunday morning.

Black, 42, says he believes everything’s on track this year.

“Hopefully, it will be an easy time,” Black said. “At least I want it to be.”

Last year, Black finished but when he took his shoes off for the last time after the race, one couldn’t tell he had feet for all the bruising, contusions and blisters.

“I’ve been training a lot and the only thing that concerns me right now is that I won’t get much sleep the next several days. It’s a tough race and thinking about it makes me stay awake.”

If all goes well, Black said he’d like to cross by the Woodstock Tower by 3 a.m., Sunday morning.

“That might be a bit ambitious,” Black added. “Last year, I got there just before daybreak but I sick as a dog 45 miles into the race. If I run more conservatively, I might make it.”

From that point, Black will still have over 14 miles to go to the finish line.

If Black succeeds in his quest, his five remaining races are achievable.

Upcoming on his race schedule is the grand-daddy of all 100s: The Western States (Calif.), in June; followed by the Vermont 100, in July, and the Superior Trail 100 in Minnesota, in August.

The last race of Black’s 600-mile season will be the Arkansas 100, scheduled for late October.

Black added he’s surprised more people haven’t flocked to watching the runners pass by.

“If you think of all the reality TV shows there are now, our races aren’t that much different,” Black said. “We’re all just a little bit crazy.”

Other local runners include 45 year-old Jean Heishman, of Fort Valley; Woodstock’s Roy Marshall, 47, and his wife Amber; James Wood physics teacher Jonathan Whitehead, 27, of Wichester; 42 year-old Richard Kerby, of Berryville, 47 year old Mike Walsh of Paris; and newcomer Larry Friedenberg, 42, of Bayse.

Chuck Jackson is a free lance writer living in Maurertown, Virginia. This article originally appeared in the May 9, 2003 edition of the Northern Virginia Daily, Strasburg, Virginia.

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