Marathon, Bear to pack a punch
It's brutal: 26 miles, 1,500 feet, and it's all uphill.
Welcome to the 43rd Grandfather Mountain Marathon, hitting runners hard, very hard, July 10.
"Because of the hills, the first 10 miles are pretty difficult ... then it finishes with a gradual incline all the way up to the Highland Games," organizer and Appalachian State University head track coach John Weaver said.
The 400 (292 male runners and 108 female runners) participants start at the 3,300-foot elevation of Kidd Brewer Stadium and climb to 4,800 feet at MacRae Meadows at Grandfather Mountain, passing through the Blue Ridge Parkway.
They come from all across the country and the world, including 31 states, Japan and Canada, between the ages of 17 and 73, to compete in what some people call one of the most intense marathons in the world.
It starts at 6:30 a.m., but the High Country gets a mini-preview Thursday with the 16th annual Running of the Bear.
While the mini-race is only 5 miles, don't let the distance fool you. Like it's big marathon brother, the Bear packs a punch.
"That's all uphill, practically," Weaver said, from the Linville Intersection to the top of Grandfather Mountain. "It gets even steeper and steeper as you go up."
Organizers say 800 (304 females and 496 males) runners from 20 states and Canada are expected to participate, from ages 7 to 73.
The Bear happens Thursday at 7 p.m.
Both races have been full to capacity since April. Despite the brutality of the course, it's a worthwhile endeavor. After all, it is all for charity. Funds raised in years past have gone toward funds for the late Will Dicus and other causes. This year's proceeds from the runs, expected to be around $20,000, will go toward High Country Conservancy, Relay for Life, Watauga Rescue Squad, Son's Light Ministries and the Appalachian Track and Cross Country Program among other places.