With only six weeks to prepare for what likely is the most difficult marathon in North Carolina, Rocky Mount resident Ron Fleming had to trust his fitness.
It was a relatively last-minute call for Fleming, 34, to enter the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, but his fitness came through just fine. Fleming finished the race Saturday with a time of 3:05.19, taking second place out of a 320-person field.
“It’s definitely the most difficult one I’ve done,” Fleming said. “There’s fantastic scenery the entire way, but the hills – the hills are pretty bad.”
Fleming, a member of the Rocky Mount Endurance Club, did what he could to prepare for the race. He didn’t have several months to condition like he did for the Boston Marathon, which he ran in April.
To ready himself for the hilly course at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, Fleming worked on hill climbing and strength.
“For Grandfather, I really didn’t know what the pace would be,” Fleming said. “With only six weeks to prepare, there’s not a whole lot you can do. I just had to rely on the fitness I had built up to that point.”
The course itself is unique for a marathon. Runners begin inside Kidd Brewer Stadium, Appalachian State’s football stadium, in which they run two laps.
Runners then move through the Blue Ridge Parkway and eventually finish on a track at the base of Grandfather Mountain, which is part of the Highland Games.
The course has three steady climbs in the first half, then a steep climb about two-thirds of the way through.
With many ways to approach the course, Fleming said he tried to approach the first two-thirds conservatively, then attack during the final eight miles. That didn’t exactly go to plan.
“It didn’t work out that way at all,” Fleming said. “I wanted to make a push in the last eight or nine (miles), but I was struggling at the end of the race.”
The difficulty of the course altered times significantly. Fleming, for his part, ran 22 minutes slower than he did in Boston.
The race winner, a Boone resident named Caleb Masland, finished in 2:47.55. Third place was nearly 26 minutes off that pace.
The day was cool but humid, which Fleming said made running a little bit more difficult.
Even though it was a quick decision for a tough course, Fleming said he was happy with how the race went.
“I never really have any regrets about running a race,” Fleming said. “You always have a sense of accomplishment when you finish.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com