Cave Spring residents defeat the Blue Ridge Marathon
CAVE SPRING–While the top runner in the Blue Ridge Marathon on Saturday was from Blacksburg, runners from Cave Spring were in the mix as well.
The Cave Spring runners were from all walks of life: retired teachers, engineers, and stay-at-home moms. Novice marathoners, and one with more than 50 under his belt. The fastest in their age groups, and the ones who were just satisfied to finish.
The Blue Ridge Marathon is arguably a test of inner strength, as well as physical conditioning. At 26.2 miles, Saturday’s inaugural marathon on the Blue Ridge Parkway was tough: over 3,000 feet of climbing, two mountains, plenty of hills, and knee-wrenching downhill portions.
The marathon is touted as one of the most challenging marathons in America, if not the hardest.
Cave Spring resident David Hurley believes it is only the third hardest, and he would know. The 68-year-old retired special education teacher has run 59 marathons. He is part of the 50 States Club, a group of people who aim to run a marathon in every state in America. Hurley has run in Hawaii, Alaska, and California, just to name a few. He has seen it all: 26 miles of flat pavement, or steep mountain sides, and everything in between. His fastest time was three hours and 22 minutes in Pittsburgh; his slowest was more than five hours in Wyoming, which involved 7,000 feet of elevation.
For Hurley, a seasoned marathoner, he was ready for a challenge. His goal was to break five hours, and to place in his age group of 65-69 year old men.
“I made it by the skin of my teeth,” Hurley said.
His official time was four hours, 59 minutes, and 11 seconds. He placed first in his age group, which included a 69-year-old from Roanoke, and two 67-year-olds, one of whom was from New York.
Other Cave Spring runners could not find solace in the opinion that the Blue Ridge Marathon may only be the third hardest in the country. For them, many first-time marathon racers, the Blue Ridge Marathon was the peak of difficulty.
Nevertheless, they overcame; some even pushing through the pain to earn one of the top three fastest times in their age group. Sara Willard, for example, was running her first marathon. She was not expecting to place third in her age group of 40 to 44 year old women.
“That was kind of a shock,” Willard said. “I was aiming just to finish.”
Willard was a runner until a couple of years ago, when she fell out of the habit. When she saw an article in the Roanoke Times in November, profiling the course, she was inspired.
“There’s no reason why I can’t do that,” Willard said to herself.
She and her husband, an avid mountain biker, decided to train together for the half-marathon, a 13.1-mile doozy.
“Neither of us had really ever ran more than five miles,” Willard said.
Two months before race day, however, they had already worked their way up to ten miles; and they decided that they would shoot for the full marathon.
“It’s been neat to see the boundaries that you can push your body through,” Willard said. “It’s one of those things that you think someone else can do. You don’t think your own body can do it.”
While Saturday was tough, and she says her husband had to drag her through the last two miles, she still had a great time, and was excited at her success, winning a duffle bag, and bragging rights.
Other Cave Spring residents were just happy to complete the course. Richard Caywood, a 41-year-old engineer, has been running for about three years. He originally started walking to lose weight. When walking became boring, he started running. And when running was not enough, he decided to take on the ultimate challenge: a marathon. While he had done a couple of 5K races, such as the Drumstick Dash, Caywood had never run a marathon. While the difficulty of the Blue Ridge Marathon was daunting, he decided to sign up because it is local.
“I knew if I didn’t sign up for it, I would regret it,” Caywood said.
Caywood did not do as well as he had hoped, finishing in four hours and 20 minutes. His main takeaway, though, was the exhilaration running a marathon provides. He is already planning to run the Richmond Marathon in the fall.
“Hopefully this will make that one seem easy,” Caywood said.
As for the Blue Ridge Marathon, he is ready for another showdown with Roanoke and Mill Mountains.
“And who knows, maybe next year, I’ll go a little faster,” Caywood said.
In the end, runners from Cave Spring learned some valuable lessons: how far they could push their bodies, and how big those mountains really are.