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Saturday, June 17, 2006 -- Canaan Valley Resort State Park - Davis, WV
Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run
(iPO Event Id#: 7246)

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]
[Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9] [Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12]

[2003] [2004] [2005]

Hurts so Good . . . Story and photos by Julie Black

Photo by Julie Black
On top of the world, Mile-19
"Torture, brutal torture." That's what they said the night before over a mile-high plate of pasta.

Defined as anguish, extreme mental distress, and unbearable physical pain, torture is the one word that many seasoned ultra-runners have used to describe the Highlands Sky Trail Run. Race director Dan Lehmann describes it another way. "It's forty-miles of wild, wet, and rocky West Virginia."

So why would anyone want to do a trail-run with such a rocky reputation? Are they all adrenaline junkies who look forward to an altered state of consciousness? Are they looking for Zen at 4,700 feet? Maybe, but the fact of the matter is that these days, more and more people find that climbing two flights of stairs to their desk job just isn't enough anymore. states that when you do an ultra-marathon you're certain to learn two things about yourself. One, your level of commitment to running, and two, your personal limits; both mental and physical. The challenge is there and this year over 140 people decided it was time to reach their ultimate goal: to run an ultra.

Photo by Julie Black
Geez, it sure is rocky here
Highlands Trail Run is a mountainous trek climbing a total of 5,474 feet, and descending 4,856 feet all through the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. The first 19 or so miles of the course is highly technical, quite rocky in fact, moving on to more single track sections.

As a member of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, Brian Schmidt knows all about trail running through Virginia and West Virginia. Google his name and you'll find him in marathons and 10K results throughout the VA area. On this day, he finished as 1st overall in 6:38:48. Bradley Mongold of Morgantown, WV is a member of the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners. Finishing 4th in the Babcock Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon, Mongold showed that he improves with miles and muck by finishing 2nd at the 40-miler in 6:42:53.

For more than seven years, Greg Zaruba has been in many ultra-runs. Zaruba finished 28th out of a field of 625 in last year's Kona Marathon in Hawaii, he's raced in the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run, and many more. At 39, he was Highlands third racer to finish with a time of 7:08:03.

Photo by Julie Black
Annette Bednosky on the planks
Tenth overall and first in the women's field, Annette Bednosky (7:48:10), holds the course record for 40-mile Uwharrie Mountain Run, North Carolina, which she aquired in 2005. "Being a Montrail/Patagonia runner and ambassador this year is a huge honor. I have been ultrarunning for a little over two years and have learned and experienced so much and my learning curve continues with each passing event or new training idea." Bednosky told USA Track and Field.

Justine Morrison (8:08:30), of Washington, D.C. was 15th overall and second for the women. Morrison was first in 2005. Lisa Maden of Bronx, New York took home third in 8:42:09.

Honerable mention goes to Morgantown's Lew McGrath, 4th overall.

Photo by Julie Black
Lew McGrath, from last to 4th
Lew is a biker turned trail runner who was seriously injured in 2001 during an automobile accident involving an 18-wheeler that could have taken his life. The incident left him helpless, and hooked up to a number of tubes. It took away much of his memory, and a lot of time was spent in rehabilitation.

An amazing 5-years later, Lew seems stronger than ever. He races to regain his physical memory back he says, and his smile is unforgettable.

On race day, Lew began the race behind everyone else due to the fact that he simply lost track of time, so right away in last place, he was off to a rough start. When he managed to make it to mile-19, he was in a lot of pain, "It hasn't ever hurt this bad Julie." he siged.

Though still smiling as always, McGrath seemed stunned at his exauhsted state and walked to the top of the boulder garden to take in the view. "What are you talking about?" I asked, "You're in 7th place Lew, keep it up!"

His tired smile was suddenly energized and a mile wide. His eyes grew wide like a child on Christmas morn and it was clear that he had no idea how far he'd come.

As soon as another runner approached McGrath was gone in a flash. "Thanks Julie!" he exclaimed as he trailed off into the lush green. "From last to seventh," I chuckled, "...only Lew, only Lew."