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Saturday, April 16, 2011 -- Danese, WV / Babcock State Park (5K Fun Walk too!)
The Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon Trail Run (iPO Event Id#: 13168)

2011: [Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Past Coverage: [2005] [2006] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010]

Tough Weather, Even Tougher Runners

Article and photos by Don Parks.

Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon
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The weather for Saturday at Babcock State Park looked like trouble: high winds and the possibility of heavy rain storms. Over 200 runners registered for the Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon Trail Run but the forecast scared off quite a few with at least 10% no-shows. It was their loss.

For the most part the rains held off and the sun did its best to sneak out now and then. With most of the running in the woods the wind was not a factor and the cool weather ideal.

It was a spectacular mix of participants that lined up for the 10 am start. There was a 65-year age difference between the youngest (10 year-old William Rader) and the oldest (75 year-old Vic Ware) competitor. In between there were runners of all shapes and sizes ready to spend a few hours in the beautiful park.

Once everyone's journey began it soon became apparent the fastest finisher would emerge from a lead group of four. Zachery Beckett, Michael Bee, Robert Smith, and Clay Warnere spent the first half of the race with little separation. However, the final long and gradual downhill on the Narrow Gauge Trail saw Warnere make a move. He was able to speed down the rugged trail and put some distance on the others. But there was still a lot of racing to do.

Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon
See more race photos.
The first two-thirds of the race there is a lot of net elevation loss, i.e. a lot of downhill. You make up for this in the final third with plenty of climbing to get you back to the finish. The climbing begins once you cross Glade Creek and head up to the Grist Mill on Old Sewell Road.

As the leaders headed up Smith and Bee started reeling Warnere back in while Beckett fought to keep up. As they passed the final aid station at the mill Smith and Bee passed Beckett. It was now going to be a two man race as they headed up the Lake View Trail and the long lap around Boley Lake.

Neither man was able to pull away from the other and they were still together as they exited the woods. With just the final climb on the paved road to the finish it was here that Smith's training at shorter distances would make the difference. He would take the win at 1:30:34 with Bee close behind for second at 1:30:42.

Meanwhile Warnere needed everything he had left to hold on to third place at 1:31:30. Beckett had him in his sights but came up just short at 1:31:39.

Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon
See more race photos.
The race for the women's win was also not decided early on. Jamie Fields built an early lead and was being chased by Kate Caldwell and Gina Thomas. Between aid station one and two Thomas would move into second but it took until the end of the downhills for her to close the gap on Fields.

Thomas does a lot of hill training and it paid off with all the climbing late in the race. She took the lead at the bottom of Old Sewell Road and never looked back.

Thomas took the women's title at 1:52:56 while Fields held on for second at 1:56:17. Kate Caldwell wasn't too far back for third at 1:57:17.

Donnie Hudspeth once again put on a wonderful event and he couldn't do it without great sponsors like Montrail, Pies & Pints, Songer Whitewater, and Quality Inn & Suites. And a big thanks, too, to all that came out to enjoy the festivities and help support the Children's Hunger Fund (

Thank You Race Sponsors