The 2015 running of The Ring saw generally good weather conditions for the 48 runners who toed the line, with high temps in the 70s and a low of around 60. Early in the race, high humidity caused issues for virtually all of the runners, while yellow jackets on the eastern ridge caused issues for the women in the race. For some reason, the yellow jackets were only stinging the women this year.
Ring veterans Danny Mowers and Brad Hinton dueled throughout this year’s race. Danny ultimately prevailed for his third Ring win in three tries, and just missed tying Keith Knipling’s 2008 course record by about one minute. Brad finished in second for the third year in a row, once again improving on his time from the previous year. Joey Cohen settled into third place early in the race, and ran comfortably all day and into the night to hold his podium spot in his first running of not only The Ring, but of any race of this length.
The women’s race would have been more compelling but for the knowledge that early leader Kathleen Cusick was planning to cut her Ring run short to save her legs for a 100 miler next weekend. Angela Russell was the first woman to finish, and also finished fifth overall, in her first attempt at The Ring. Gaynor Bourgeois ran a very strong race and improved on her previous finishing time at The Ring to take second among the women. Stephanie Dempsey, also new to the Fellowship, completed the podium with her finish in just over 24 hours.
27 of 48 starters finished the race this year. This is a high percentage for The Ring, and we were glad to see so many persevere this year. Of particular note was the very high number of first time finishers. Of the 27 who completed the full 71 miles, 21 were adding their names to the Fellowship of The Ring — this included the final 16 finishers. All of these new Fellowship members are now eligible to run the Reverse Ring in February 2016. There are now 157 members of the Fellowship, so entry into the winter gem that is the Reverse Ring may soon also require a lottery!
This race is so blessed to have the incredible cadre of volunteers from the VHTRC that come out to support their fellow trail runners each year. From the hiked-in supplies at the first checkpoint at Milford Gap to the extraordinary breakfast at the Signal Knob Cafe at the finish line, and then at every aid station along the way, the volunteers went above and beyond the call to allow the runners to complete this challenging race. Thank you, volunteers, for being so generous with your time over the Labor Day weekend. And thanks to all the runners who came out to take on The Ring this year. It was another great day and night to run around the Fort Valley, and lets all do it again next Labor Day weekend!