"Love-Hate Race" By Freeman Gerow,

There are some races you love to hate. One of them is Grandfather Mountain, which I ran for the fourth time on July 8th. I knew I needed to go back and face it one more time, even though I in some ways dreaded it. The race is a real challenge. It is not one to try to qualify for Boston on nor is it one that would be recommended for first timers (although many have). Why then was over half of the entrants people who had run the race before, yet wanted to come back? Perhaps some of the reasons are found in the logistics of the race: 1. It is a mid-summer, off-season race. Many runners try to use fall and spring marathons for Personal bests and peak training races. A July race can be done just to do it for fun or a challenge or just to do it period. 2. The course is a real challenge. Your time will be twenty to thirty minutes slower than your regular times on this course. There are paved roads and gravel roads; steep up-hills and down-hills, high- banked curves, narrow roads and flat-landers driving mountain roads while taking in the views. 3. Muscles that are used infrequently are pushed to the limit, producing cramps like you've never had before. Your legs are trashed and you've still got several miles to go. Your lungs and heart are working like they've never worked before, even in 400 yard sprints Most runners who would never want to treat their bodies like that in a spring or summer race can challenge them without worrying about not recovering for their next race 4. The sheer beauty of the race makes the race enjoyable. A ride up to Grandfather is always spectacular but when you are really in it-face to face, in the race, the beauty really hits you. Small waterfalls, beautiful flowers, rhododendrums, mountain laurel, valleys and meadows, beautiful homes, streams, lakes, wetlands, and scenic views are in view every foot of the race and at race pace make it worth running. 5. The best part of the race is the people involved. The volunteers are tremendous. They try to meet the needs of the runner and encourage the runners on. This year they had themes at every stop. There were hula dancers (no, I wasn't seeing things) around 20 miles. Quite a contrast to the mountain backdrop. The crowds at the highland Games (where the race finishes) cheer you around the track to the sound of bagpipes and other musical instruments as if you were family. The people who make the race, though, are the participants. Most are from a different mold than most runners. Some have run this race fifteen or more times. (You even receive awards after 5 years). These could be called the "groupie runners. There were "fifty Stater's", Ultra-marathoners, veteran runners, some having run 60 or more marathons. These types of runners are very friendly, helpful, and encouraging to everybody. They do races like this, not because they want to prove anything but simply because they want to do it for the sake of running. One example of this was seen in our own Keith Wood. He could have finished much sooner but chose, instead to help his friend who was cramping badly to the finish line. My hat is off to him. Next year, this race will fill up even quicker than this year. There are ultra's in July (Big Butt 50k near Lancaster, SC and Rattlesnake 50k in Charleston, WVA) within driving range whose logistics are different but worth the challenge if you can't do Grandfather, so make your plans to accept a challenge next summer just to develop your own love-hate relationship. You will become a better runner for it.