Highlands Sky and the Ol’ Man
There once was an Ol’ Man who had a dream,
to hold a trail race that would make runners scream.
He gathered a group of his closest buddies,
and sent them to Canaan to be the subject of his studies.
They ran the first 15 miles on that fateful day,
“Just one little climb” the Ol’ Man was heard to say.
Up they went to Roaring Plains before they did stop,
the Ol’ Man said “What’s the matter boys, this isn’t the top!”
So on to the gas line and then Boar’s Nest Trail,
“The end of the run is close boys” the Ol’ Man did tell.
Two rivers, one mountain and seven miles later,
a chicken soup dinner the Ol’ Man did cater.
“Tell me what you honestly think” the Ol’ Man said,
“Isn’t this going to be fun or am I just sick in the head?”
They looked at their bloodied legs, all covered in black mud and silt,
“You put this race on, you’ll going to get somebody kilt!”
“Oh come on boys, don’t fear for your life,”
“and by the way, did anybody happen to find a Swiss Army knife?”
Undeterred and with a sheepish grin,
the Ol’ Man said “15 today, but you’ll do 40 by race end!”
As history has it, some folks say,
the Highlands Sky 40 Miler was born on that very day.
Some things have changed and some things have not,
one thing for sure, Highlands Sky is no leisurely trot.
Roots and rocks and stinging plants everywhere,
they’re enough to make an ordained Baptist preacher swear.
Through rhododendron thickets runners will pace,
ever mindful of the next obstacle that will try to plant their grimaced face.
On to swamps and mud knee deep is a spot,
to the “Lehmann Butt Slide” that’s slicker than snot.
To places with names like “Ten Bridges Ridge”,
that has boulders twice as big as a frig.
On to the “Road Across the Sky”,
it’s enough to make a seasoned runner want to cry.
The end of the road is near when you see “Bear Rocks”,
fill your bottles here, but don’t worry about changing your socks.
For now is when you cross “Dolly Sods” proper,
the Ol’ Man says 7 miles, but it’s more like a 10 mile heart stopper.
Water and rocks and a lot of mud,
this isn’t a place for an ultra running pud!
When you have climbed high enough to touch heaven,
you’re at the end of the “Sods”, at Aid Station Seven.
Willie will be there, running the show,
but you won’t linger here because the weather feels like snow.
With a sheepish grin handed down through the Lehmann family tree,
Willie will point to the finish and say “Right there’s where you want to be.”
“Where?” you’ll ask “I don’t see,”
“Way, way, over there,” he will say “across the valley.”
Off you will go just in the knick of time,
as icicles start forming on your sweaty behind.
“One more little climb” Willie will say,
but you know he’s a Lehmann and therefore know you’re going to pay!
With this in the back of your mind,
out of the trees you will run and the ski slope you will find.
UP the slope the trail markers do lead,
little climb your foot, it’s high enough to cause a nose bleed!
Across the top, then down to Freeland Road,
easy going until you get to the part that badly needs mowed.
Step carefully here, in the weeds waist high,
because you may to step in a groundhog hole, up to your thigh.
On to Canaan Valley Resort you will enter,
the asphalt here makes your legs feel like they will splinter.
As you now think you are close to the end,
be prepared for a detour in a road bend.
Back into the woods for another mile of fun,
a lot of shade here, but it’s as hot as the sun.
The thoughts of “I think I can, I think I can”
are now replaced with “Damn you Dan!”
But wait, what is this you hear,
Hoots and hollers….. the finish line is near.
Out of the woods and through the grass,
down to the swimming pool, the finish line at last!
And there standing for you to see,
is the Ol’ Man you’ve been cursing since mile number three.
A smile and a handshake the Ol’ Man will pass,
and for a second you’ll want to tell him to kiss your – - – !
But these awful thoughts won’t last long,
as he shakes your hand and says “You ran strong”.
“You should be very proud of what you accomplished.” he will say
“Have something to eat and drink and the water hose is right this way.”
With a pat on the back and a few more smiles,
the Ol’ Man will make you forget your troubles from the last forty miles.
The memory of black mud will be replaced with skies of deep blues,
and the rocks will be changed to beautiful scenery and of astounding views.
The Ol’ Man will help you remember all the “Fun” that you had,
and you begin to think this race wasn’t so bad.
With the good soreness and stiffness beginning to take hold,
you will listen to the runner’s war stories as they are told.
Then as the twelfth hour grows near,
the Ol’ Man will still be thanking each runner and hoping they come back next year.
The Highlands Sky is now over as the last runner shuffles through,
the Ol’ Man will shake their hand and tell them how strong they look too.
The Ol’ Man is an inspiration to runners all,
in some folk’s eyes, he’s ten feet tall.
But remember one thing as you see his sheepish grin one last time,
Horton’s plus, plus is nothing, down there in the Virginia pine.
because the Highlands Sky has the Ol’ Man and his “One Little Climb.”
an anonymous friend