Rain clouds subside
GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN — The weather was accommodating for the fourteenth annual running of the Bear.
Parting clouds and rolling fog proved to be just the trick for runner Ryan Woods, 29, of Boone, NC. Woods finished first with a time of 31 minutes and 44.58 seconds, leading the field of 892 runners.
This was Woods’ ninth running of the Bear. He also placed first in 2006 and came in second in 2007.
“It was hard, muggy, but fun throughout,” said Woods. “I’m just glad it stopped raining.”
The men’s time record still stands at 30 minutes, 34.35 seconds set by Ian Conner of Columbus, OH in 2005.
Ryan Woods makes his way to the top at the as the first place male finisher. Photo by Helen Hopper
The race begins in Linville and ends five miles later at the base of the Mile High Swinging Bridge atop Grandfather Mountain, an elevation gain of 1,568 feet.
Second place finisher Nick Sunseri of Tallahassee, FL came in with a time of 32 minutes and 16.15 seconds. Sunseri, 22, has run the Bear three times with eighth and seventeenth place finishes.
Ryan Vanhoy, 21, of Chapel Hill finished his first ever running of the Bear with a third place finish. Vanhoy is working with Zap Fitness in Boone this summer and was encouraged to run. Vanhoy finished at 33 minutes and 24.93 seconds.
Ryan Woods climbs the final few feet to cross the finish line as the winner of The Bear on Thursday night at Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Mark Mitchell
Betsy Patrick, of Banner Elk, NC, took first place for the women with a time of 38 minutes and 51.07 seconds. In Patrick’s previous encounters with the Bear she has never come in later than third place.
“It was a lot harder than I remember,” said Patrick. “I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of a friend behind me.”
The women’s record remains at 35 minutes and 55 seconds set in 2002 by Beth Fonner.
Second place for the women went to Leigh Wallace of Todd, NC with a time of 39 minutes and 33.02 seconds. Wallace, 38, who also placed second in 2006 and 2007, has run the Bear six times.
“The weather was great but I felt awful,” said Wallace. “It never gets easier; in fact, it gets hard each time you run. It’s the toughest mental challenge.”
A runner eyes the finish line during the running of The Bear on Thursday night at Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Mark Mitchell
The third place win went to Amanda Cook of Banner Elk, NC with a time of 40 minutes and 21.10 seconds. Cook, 27, has completed the Bear seven times with two second place finishes in the past.
Following the race, the opening ceremony for the 53rd Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games announced the arrival of the clans with a torchlight ceremony. This year 160 Scottish clans and societies are expected to participate.
The weather forecast for the weekend predicts pleasant temperatures with chances of late day showers. Crowds to this year’s Highland Games are sure to be entertained by Celtic music, traditional Scottish athletics, sheepherding demonstrations and much more.
— Story courtesy of Grandfather Mountain
Juliana Haizlip, 4, holds her sign high as she cheers for her father, Tom Haizlip, during The Bear at Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Mark Mitchell
Participants battled each other, and the challenging climb in elevation, during the annual running of The Bear at Grandfather Mountain on Thursday night. Photo by Mark Mitchell