Before I talk about the race let me just say that if you live in Georgia and haven't run a GUTS event, you need to.
About the race...
MMM offers a 12-mile race as well as a full marathon on the same course. Full marathoners and 12-mile races shared the course for the first 11 miles on the Gahuti Trail and Fort Mountain Overlook Trail, then full marathoners split off for an extended mountain bike trail route for the remainder of the miles.
The name "Mystery Mountain Marathon" comes from the 'mystery' concerning the remains of an 855-foot stone wall on top of Fort Mountain. Nobody knows exactly who built the wall, but it's been there for centuries. Since I never would have known that had I not been told, I assumed the mystery had something to do with how one still plans to PR with over 15,000 feet of net elevation gain and that steep, god forsaken, poorly placed, evil, mean f*cked up hill in the way.
On to the race report...
At the starting area, Charles and I encountered several friends including Jason Rogers, Thomas Armbruster (Georgia Snail) and the lovely Holly Armbruster. Jason was running the full marathon, Thomas was running the 12-miler, and Holly would do some hill trekking of her own.
As the race started at 8:00 AM, we settled in with Dan B for the easy mile around the lake at the starting area. We talked about Dan's recent Mohican effort and our Foothills Trail effort.
The first part of this race doesn't look as severe on the elevation map but it has some of the most challenging hills of the entire marathon. There are technical rocky stretches that are basically unrunnable and much of the Gahuti section is also on an uneven trail along a ledge, so falling down the mountain is a... concern. Charles had mentioned that the first 11 miles miles of the race are deceivingly difficult, and he was right.
But I’ll share it with you now.
If I take off and tell Charles to catch me, he will either catch me or die trying.
As Charles caught up to me, we exchanged thoughts about what kind of sick person would think to throw this hill in the middle of the race. Charles affectionately named the climb "Green Hell" as I mentally drafted my letter to the course designer.
Dear Course Designer,
I have copied this letter to the CIA so that they may contact you for your assistance in the interrogation of terror suspects. I can assure you that I am not a terrorist but I would have admitted to anything after your little root-canal of a marathon course. Like I said, just tell me what you want me to admit to and I'll do it.
The next 5 miles or so were pretty decent running. It was at this point we both realized we were starting to pull people in. As we headed into the aid station at 18.7, I took off and told Charles to catch me.
7 miles later, I finished in 6:11 and Charles finished in 6:16, nearly a 15 minute PR for him on this course. We both walked away with great race schwag and big smiles. It doesn't get better than that.