By Chuck Jackson
Northern Virginia Daily Sports Correspondent
A record number of entrants - including five from Shenandoah County - began early this morning, in what may be the only 100-mile human race run in the Northern Shenandoah Valley this year.
The local runners taking on the rugged and treacherous trails of the George Washington National Forest in the eighth-annual Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 include Woodstock’s Amber and Roy Marshall and Kevin Black; Mt. Jackson’s Tony Davis and Janice Heltibridle of Maurertown.
Black, 42, is also chairing the Shenandoah County Red Cross Chapter’s effort through a fund-raising sponsorship of runners. This is the first time the run’s organizers - Northern Virginia-based Virginia Happy Trails Running Club - has teamed up with a charitable organization.
The MMT usually is run three weeks prior to the Old Dominion 100-Mile Endurance Run. But the OD 100, has taken a hiatus this year and another upstart group attempting to sponsor an ultra-marathon race of its own appears to be lacking the necessary national forest permits required to run on many of the same trails, Memorial Day weekend.
All five of the local runners have been prepping for the MMT for several months. Roy Marshall, 46, ran three 100s last year, including the MMT. Marshall followed with the OD 100 and then completed the Vermont 100 last July. His wife, Amber, 24, also ran the OD100 and Vermont but will be making her first appearance in this weekend’s race.
“We’ve trained a lot on many of the trails that we’ll be running this weekend,” Amber Marshall said earlier this week. “It’s a tough course and in many ways, it’s tougher than the Old Dominion because we won’t be running on any roads. It’s making me nervous.”
Black also ran the OD 100 last June where he earned his second buckle by completing the course in 24 hours or less. He also attempted Vermont, but dropped out after becoming ill midway through the ordeal.
Davis, 33, and Heltibridle, 44, are relative newcomers to the ultra scene but like the other three, have attempted and completed several serious events this spring in preparation for this weekend’s race.
Many of the runners will have pacers who will join them after 6 p.m., Saturday night, as they begin to head into darkness. Black’s pacer will be Woodstock resident Tom Truban while Amber Marshall will have her dad, Fort Valley resident Jim Corbitt, running with her.
All five athletes competed the Holiday Lake 50-K in February and the Promise Land 50-K, in Lynchburg two weeks ago.
Marshall also said that while they all completed the 50-Ks, they will have their work cut out to be able to finish the MMT.
“There’s a huge difference and I don’t mean just the mileage,” Marshall said. “In a 50-K, the race is over in a few hours and you still are banking on the food and fuel you consumed before you start running it. In a 100-mile race, you can’t consume enough before hand, and if you don’t fuel yourself right during the run, you can get into trouble.”
One hundred and thirty-seven runners representing nearly every state, Canada and several foreign countries will try to finish the 36-hour time limit set by the running club. The race, which began at 5 a.m., will take the runners along the ridge tops and down into the valleys to the Forest Services’ Visitor Center, east of New Market, before returning to the ranch resort.
The record for the race, set by Berryville’s Courtney Campbell in 1997, is 18 hours, 21 minutes.
Chuck Jackson is a free-lance writer living in Maurertown, Virginia. He primary writes outdoor and recreation features and columns and covers all of the ultra-marathon (human and horse) events in the George Washington National Forest. This article originally appeared in the Northern Virginia Daily on Saturday, May 11, 2002. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
Ed Note: Chuck helped out at the Woodstock Tower aid station.
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