By Jeff Nations
It's about as far from a leisurely visit to the scenic Shenandoah Valley as you could imagine, but 63 runners converged on Woodstock for this morning's start of the grueling 36th Annual Old Dominion 100-Mile Run.
"We're looking at a really good race," co-race director Wynne Waldron said on Friday. "The weather is going to be not too hot, and there won't be much rain."
Runners were scheduled to begin leaving the start line at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds at 4 a.m. for what promises to be a thoroughly long look at Shenandoah County. Waldron expects the leading runners to cross the finish line back at the fairgrounds at around 10 p.m. or slightly after on Saturday night.
The route winds through the town of Woodstock, over the Burnshire Bridge and up the Woodstock Tower road into Fort Valley. The race's 75-mile point is the Elizabeth Furnace pavilion, from which runners must depart no later than midnight to remain in the race. The final 25-mile leg stretches back to the Woodstock Tower, through Woodstock and returns to the fairgrounds for the finish.
Among the runners expected to start this morning's race are two previous men's winners, Charlottesville's Neal Gorman (2011) and Arlington's Olivier Leblond (2012). Last year's women's champion, Annandale's Megan Stegemiller, is also back to defend her title in the race.
Runners from as far away as Scotland (Colin Montgomery) and Hawaii (Thomas Brown) are ready to take on the challenging course. As always, there will be plenty of support for the runners along the course from race volunteers.
"We have plenty of volunteers this year to help with the aid stations, from all across the country," Waldron said.
The race also drew a few local runners, including Old Dominion 100-Mile stalwart Jeff Pence of Edinburg, Front Royal's Karsten Brown and Winchester's Carolyn Miller. They, like the rest, will be competing for the coveted sterling silver buckle awarded to runners who compete the course in 24 hours or less. Runners had to qualify for this year's race by completing a 50-mile race within the time limits of that event during the past year. The Old Dominion's course will be held open for 28 hours, giving those who weren't up to the 24-hour challenge the opportunity to finish the race.
Also among this year's field are two hikers, Woodstock's Roy Marshall and Edinburg's Michele Fadley, who tackled the course starting at 4 a.m. on Friday and planned to meet up with the runners at Mud Hole Gap (69.5 miles).
The course record of 15 hours, 10 minutes was set in 1992. Most runners are expected to complete the race between 11 p.m. on Saturday night and 4 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Spectators are welcome at the admission-free event.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>