MMT Report

By Chuck Jackson

See also: Chuck's Preview of the Event

Tom Nielsen and Bethany Hunter finished what they started this weekend – winning the ninth-annual Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-Mile Run – and they did it despite torrential downpours, thunder, lightening and possibly even hail.

The ultra-marathon is sponsored by the Northern Virginia-based Virginia Happy Trails Running Club and it’s hosted by Warren County’s Skyline Ranch Resort. The race is run entirely on trails in the George Washington National Forest and this year garnered 129 entrants and 117 starters. It has a 36-hour time limit.

It began at 5 o’clock Saturday morning in a rain that became heavier as the day wore on and forced more than a few runners to drop out of the race prematurely.

Nielsen, 43, of Annandale won the men’s race with a time of 21:55:30 while Hunter, a 24-year-old from Lynchburg, was fifth overall with a time of 24:40:20.

Arlington’s Robin Kane, 40, pushed Nielsen but couldn’t make up time lost during the stretch between Gap Creek and the national forest Visitor’s Center, east of New Market. By the time Kane reached the center he was 26 minutes behind the men’s leader but managed to cut the deficit to finish just 5:23 behind the winner.

Hunter too was pressed at the finish by second-place Sue Johnston, 37, but maintained her advantage with the help of ultra legend David Horton, who served as her pacer through the dark hours. Horton, also from Lynchburg, holds the third-best time for running across the United States and also has run the entire Appalachian Trail.

Johnston, of Waterford, Vt., shadowed Hunter for much of the race until she fell behind during the 2.8-mile stretch between Moreland and Edinburg gaps, falling from nine minutes off the pace to 18 minutes. She more than made up for it during the next 8.4-mile stretch to Woodstock Tower gaining all but six minutes.

But Hunter still appeared fresh and that, ultimately proved to be Johnston’s downfall.

Taking third among the men and women respectively were Evan Sandt, a 33-year-old from Lancaster, Pa., (3rd overall) and Deb Pero, 48, of Jaffrey, N.H. (29th).

The top local runner to finish was Woodstock’s Kevin Black, 43, who posted his best time ever to finish 10th overall.

Richard Kerby, 41, of Berryville did well in his first 100-miler, finishing 19th overall while Woodstock’s Amber Marshall, 24, and husband Roy, 47, ran together the entire way to finish in a tie for 34th place.

First-timer Jonathan Whitehead, 27, of Winchester finished in 55th place, while Bayse’s Larry Friedenberg, 42, who also completed his first ultra, finished in 62nd place.

Two other local runners failed to finish.

Paris’s Mike Walsh, 47, dropped at Camp Roosevelt, while Fort Valley’s Jean Heishman, 45, dropped out at Bird Knob. A total of 44 runners quit the race, including 22 at the visitor station aid station, during the height of the storm.

Chuck Jackson is a free lance writer living in Maurertown, Virginia. This article originally appeared in the May 12, 2003 edition of the Northern Virginia Daily, Strasburg, Virginia.

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