Sunrise from Signal Knob, taken in the early miles of the 2014 Reverse Ring.

Keith Knipling

The Runner’s Perspective

by Barry Hauptman

This past weekend , I finally became a Master of The Ring. It is honestly one of the moments I will always be most proud of in my running life.

I completed MMT in 2017 and The Ring in 2018, and since then found excuses and allowed my inability to overcome fear of a few rocks and a freezing night along the eastern ridge to attempt the Reverse.

After struggling to finish Bull Run Run in April, I sat with Bob Gaylord….and asked how I accept aging and slowing and still find the love of trails that Bob shows us all every day. Bob’s simple reply: Surround yourself with great people and focus on them and not your pace.

Well, I really have no explanation for what happened next but I reached out to Jana Fridrichová and spent a rainy morning hiking with her in the Catoctins. Jana asked if knew Heather Dougherty, who I then met for a trail run. They both asked if I knew Nora Jodrey and boom! I had three new special trail friends. I was reinvigorated, just as Bob said.

Knowing I’m turning 60 in mid-March and with this new found energy, this was it. I was entering the Reverse Ring.

My new pals as well as David Peppelman (who also became a master at this race!!) planned out trips to train, and although I couldn’t keep up we made plans that allowed for each to accomplish their training goals.

Somehow Heather agreed to meet me at Camp Roos and accompany me as my pacer on the dreaded Eastern Ridge, and all of a sudden I was looking forward to something I had been dreading.

The Reverse Ring race day began climbing up Signal Knob, as I chatted with John Calabrese, Marty Fox and Chad Cato. After enjoying the early morning view from atop, I had the one section of the day where my “speed” would be of benefit. I got to RUN a few miles, until the ascent back up to the Massanutten’s western ridge.

Chad and I shared some trail time until our first aid at Woodstock. He’s from NC and I got some scoop on our next adventure at Mt Mitchell.

After Woodstock Aid, I was solo and didn’t see a soul outside of aid stations.

Upon arrival at Edinburg Gap, I was upset to see Carl Bligan had had to stop. After my second Quatro Hubbard chicken salad wrap of the day, I was off to cross Short Mountain.

I know I’m a minority, but I’d rather do Kerns twice than Short once. I fell twice, once pretty hard, as those darn rocks grab your toes.

I was happy to arrive at Moreland and eat PIE and soup. Then the climb up to Kerns was tougher than I thought, as it was first time I’d gone up Jawbone and then across Kerns in that direction. Kerns was Kerns, and then it was time for Crisman Hollow aid.

I then focused on 10 miles to Heather. I had told her 7:30 pm, and I really wanted to impress her and be on time. I saw a group of hikers coming up the Waterfall section as I descended, which was nice. It got dark about where Scothorn Gap trail crosses orange. Duncan Hollow was wet as always and slick, so I was slower down than I had hoped and arrived to Roos 7 minutes late. There was Heather. Now I knew we would get it done.

I changed into the warm stuff for the night, had some soup and sadly declined fresh banana bread she had made, as my stomach was starting to go sour.

We started the ascent, caught up on each others days and off we went into the night. I had asked her to watch a documentary that unfortunately is also deeply personal to me. Heather had said she liked stories and this is the most interesting one I know.

We missed a turn that I had also missed at Boyers and that I had mentioned. I then became disoriented, after saying let’s retrace until we find orange. Heather (thank goodness) found the trail, then came back and found me.

We were slow as I struggled drinking. Knowing I had to I kept trying, but each attempt was ending in heaving or a little puking.

I was upset with myself as here was someone giving up their weekend, their sleep etc to help me and I was pathetic!!

We finally got to Milford. We sat. I had so been looking forward to Sarah Smith’s pizza Cafe. Heather was Devouring the pizza; I had a single piece.

That somehow settled me. I was able to drink and we were able to at least walk with purpose.

I needed to find a walking stick as I was teetering some, and that helped. After first light we both got some pep and I even slowly jogged the sweet trail into Elizabeth Furnace.

We did it. I was a Ring Master!

It was so good to see so many friends at Signal Knob. I literally became teary-eyed upon being handed the pin and sticker.

There are no words to express my gratitude to pacer and friend extraordinaire Heather.

I am certain I’d still be wobbling on the ridge without her help. Thank you. Thank you.

Last updated February 27, 2023