July 14, 2014. Boone Resident Caleb Masland won the Grandfather Mountain Marathon on Saturday for a full 17 minutes ahead of his closest competitor, crossing the finish line in a time of 2:47:55. But that doesn’t mean the 26.2 mile race, part of the 59th annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games was easy.
“It was tough,” Masland said. “Definitely the most challenging marathon I’ve ever run.”
Saturday was the first time participating in the event for Masland, 33, an accomplished athlete and running coach who runs for Sketchers Performance. A three-time competitor in the Boston Marathon who has completed the challenging New River Marathon, Masland said Saturday’s race was “much harder” than other marathons he has done.
The 47th annual Grandfather Mountain Marathon drew about 320 participants to the starting line at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, putting them through the gauntlet before they finished amid thousands of cheering onlookers at MacRae Meadows in Linville.
“You start hearing the bagpipes … and it really gave me a second wind- or a tenth,” Masland said of the finish.
The second place finisher was Ron Fleming, 34, of Rocky Mount with a time of 3:05:19. Third place went to Matthew Hitechew, 32, of Newland who finished in 3:12:55.
The first female finisher was Annette Bednosky, 47, of Jefferson, who finished in 3:28:35. She was followed by Alisha Little, 33, of Lenoir at 3:31:14 and Phyllis Tsang, 32, of Charlotte at 3:32:57.
Fleming, the second man to cross the finish line, repeated what many runners echoed about the strenuous course.
“The scenery was really beautiful, but overall the marathon was pretty brutal,” said Fleming, who was running the marathon for the second time.
It was also the second time running this event for Hitechew, the third place finisher. An ultra-marathoner, Hitechew said he was used to running distances beyond the marathon length, but said “I’ll always run this marathon.”
The female finishers were equally impressive, including ultra-marathoner Bednosky, a frequent competitor in the Highland Games running events. In June, she also won the Critter Crawl, a 5K race up Grandfather Mountain.
“If I can run it, I’m happy,” she said.
Little, the second female finisher, also was the second-place female Thursday in The Bear, a 5-mile foot race from Linville up Grandfather Mountain to the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
The location was about the only thing the two competitions shared, she said.
“The marathon’s a whole different animal than a 5-mile run,” she said. “The last two miles were real tough. I faked it ’til I made it.”
Tsang, the third female to cross the finish line, said she tried to run conservatively at the beginning to save energy for the end.
“I try to think of it as 20 miles of warm-up and then six miles of do what you can,” she said.
Despite exceptional efforts from the marathon runners, the course records still stand. The course record remains at 2:34:51, set by Michael Harrison in 1994. The women’s course record was set at 3:01:54 by Patti Shephard in 1997.
Race Coordindator Jim Deni said he was pleased with how smoothly the marathon went Saturday. The race drew runners from 31 states and Singapore, and competitors’ ages ranged from 15 to 75, he said.
The hilly race climbed from an elevation of 3,333 feet to 4,279 feet, a climb that adds to its reputation as one of the toughest marathons in the country.
“The trick to running this is if you attack it, you’re going to blow up,” Deni said. “If you go out hard and say, ‘I’m going to crush this course,’ it will crush you.”
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games continue Sunday with the Scottish worship service, Scottish athletics demonstrations and clinic, border collie demonstrations, musical entertainment, Highland Dance competitions and the Parade of Tartans.
Visit www.gmhg.org or call (828) 733-2013 for more information.
Visit leetiming.com to view full race results.