By Chuck Jackson
Northern Virginia Daily Sports Correspondent
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Every sports or recreation event has a sidebar - something perhaps insignificant to most observers but without it, the event would have less meaning.
It was no different this past weekend with the running of the Old Dominion 50- and 100-Mile Memorial Run. There were many inspirational moments during the race from the start with Roy Marshall's blessing and to the end with Woodstock's own Kavara Vaughn's miraculous recovery to finish her first ultramarathon event.
But the one that stood out most in my mind was Paul Courry's ordeal.
Courry is a systems administrator from Damascus, Md. His employment takes him daily to Philadelphia.
He's no stranger to local ultra events, having captained the Visitor Center East aid station at US Route 211 during the 2002 Massanuttan Mountain Trails 100, two weeks ago.
Wednesday of last week, Courry contacted the race committee, asking if the cutoff for the 50-miler was actually the same as the 100-mile run.
Assured it was, Courry registered on the spot and then spent the next two days putting in 16-hour shifts at work. He arrived in Woodstock two hours before his scheduled 6 a.m. start Saturday morning, having last slept Thursday night.
I ran into Courry first at the Mertz Farm aid station, in Fort Valley, where I found him asleep on the ground. It was mid-afternoon and he somehow managed two hours of shut eye amidst the thousands of gnats. He finally awoke and took off on his trek again.
My next encounter with my new bearded friend was Saturday night when I was asked to wake him up in the back of his pickup sitting in the Ramada parking lot. The clock said 11:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the mandatory cutoff to leave the hotel aid station of being forced out of the race.
Fifteen minutes later, he finally got up, and after hitting the restroom and grabbing two cups of chicken noodle soup, he left for his final 14.4 miles back up to the top of Powell's Mountain and hopefully, back down again to the finish line.
I made a final sweep around 5:30 a.m., Sunday morning when communication suddenly ended and we didn't know the status of the final runners. I looked along the fields and yards on Water Street and Mill Road heading out of Woodstock and Courry was no where to be found. I finally found him a half-hour later, curled up in a fetal position, obviously dreaming about the race as his feet were pedaling to his snores.
100-mile runner Dan Bratches was finally able to waken Courry when he yelled for the "log" to wake up. As Courry slowly got up, Bratches explained to me that he had been in the same situation at MMT, taking a two-hour snooze at Courry's station.
"The only difference was that he called me a log when I didn't continue the race," Bratches said. "He had to get up and finish."
And he did, walking the rest of the way in, singing the theme from Rawhide the whole way. He finally made it to the Ramada at 10:38 a.m., 22 minutes before the end of the 30-hour affair.
"I told them last week that I was going to take full advantage of the liberal time limit," Courry said. "And I did."
Chuck Jackson is a free lance writer, living in Maurertown, Virginia. He coverage includes ultramarathons in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and wherever else someone is willing to pay him. This column originally appeared in the Northern Virginia Daily on Tuesday, May 28, 2002. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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