LINVILLE — Jefferson resident Annette Bednosky, 48, nearly repeated as women’s champion of the Grandfather Mountain Marathon but had to settle for a second place finish behind race newcomer Jill Smylie, who is from Glasgow, Scotland.
Bednosky finished the race in three hours, 37 minutes.
The 26.2-mile race saw 327 total runners competing.
Boone’s Caleb Masland, 34, was able to finish the race well under three hours, (2:45) and finished 21 minutes ahead of second place Thomas Briggs from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to win the men’s title
Smylie, a teacher on a one-year cultural exchange program in Swansboro, said the race’s finish at MacRae Meadows in the midst of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games brought an incredible feeling.
Smylie said she had never attended a Highland Games before and will leave in just one week to return to Scotland.
“I heard the bagpipes and (saw) the kilts, and it was the most amazing experience of my life,” she said.
Race director Jim Deni said it wasn’t entirely surprising that the winners hailed from 3,700 miles apart, as the Grandfather Mountain Marathon has earned a reputation as one of the toughest marathons in the world.
“We generally have good representation from the western part of the state, but we’ve got people from 26 states here, so it’s well-known,” Deni said.
Overcast skies and a cool morning offered excellent conditions for the runners, who started at Appalachian State University’s Kidd Brewer Stadium, snaked along the Blue Ridge Parkway and back toward Linville to finish on the track at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Competitors from 17 to 75 tested their mettle on the course, and even the first finishers remarked on the course’s difficulty.
“It was hard because I’ve been living at sea level and running on flat,” Smylie said. “But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
Masland benefitted from his knowledge of the course from past years.
“This race just chews you up,” he said. “You have to be really smart in the first 16 miles, and I learned that last year.”
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87