Below are The Final Results for the 16th running of The Ring, held over Labor Day weekend, 2018 (September 1-2). Congratulations to all 59 participants for toeing the start line on what proved to be “Humid Saturday.” This year was tough! The humidity was oppressive into the early afternoon, and the runners clearly were paying a heavy price. The volunteers at the first two aid stations over those opening 25 miles - at Milford Gap (13 miles in) and Camp Roosevelt (25 miles) - went through a LOT more water in particular, and liquids in general, than ever before at this race. Between dehydration issues and early abuse by the Massanutten rocks, over a tenth of the runners had been scraped from the field in the opening section on the eastern ridge of the mountains; 7 of the 17 DNFs were logged in at this point.
Early in the afternoon, when many of the runners had moved on to the infamous Duncan Hollow section of the orange trail, the sky finally let loose with a cleansing downpour. While the temperatures dropped into the 60s after the storm, the humidity remained a challenge for the runners to overcome. Also a challenge: the usual Massanutten rocks, and an unusually robust crop of sawbriers. Runner after runner at the finish described their own version of hell during their crossing of Short Mountain in the latter half of the race. The “Ring Rash” demonstrated on all of the finishers’ legs attested to that additional challenge in this year’s race.
On to The Results of The Ring! The Queen and King of The Ring in 2018 were Sheila Vibert and Dan Fogg! Dan Fogg was the runaway overall winner of the 2018 Ring, cruising to The Win by a nearly 2 hour cushion, with a strong time of 15:30. Dan was running The Ring for the first time, and on a day that was far from optimal for running a fast time, he still managed to notch the fifth fastest time of any runner over the 16 years that the race has been held. Adam Watkins retains the event record for The Ring, with his 2017 time of 14:23. The rest of the top historic top four finishers: Keith Knipling, 14:46:30 (2008); Danny Mowers, 14:47 (2015); and Brad Hinton, 15:28 (also in 2015). The remainder of the event record top ten finshers consist of Mike Schuster (2007), Keith Kniping (2017), Danny Mowers (2013), and Chris Moore and George Sefzik (both in 2017). It is interesting (to me anyway …) to note that four of the top ten oversall Ring times were set by runners who did not win the race, and in particular that four of the top ten were run in 2017. Chris McIntosh’s 2014 winning time of 16:10 was bumped from The Ring’s top ten by Dan Fogg’s race time in 2018.
The three runners who followed Dan into the Signal Knob parking lot to complete their loop remained in relative proximity to each other for much of the race; steady John Marciari finished second in 17:25, and due to some late navigational issues coming down that final, rocky Signal Knob descent, saw his lead over third place (and the first woman) Sheila Vibert drop to roughly two minutes at the end. Aaron Ellison survived a couple of bouts of nausea in the second half to finish a strong 4th a few minutes later, in 17:35.
Sheila’s sparkling 17:27 just missed breaking the race record! This was particularly amazing considering the tougher than usual conditions that Sheila faced during her run in 2018. Kathleen Cusick’s 17:22, set in 2016, remains the women’s race record at The Ring. Sheila now has the second fastest time, as well as the fourth fastest (set when she ran an 18:03 in 2017). The rest of the top ten times in the history of The Ring through the 2018 race: Grace Fisher’s 17:50 while finishing as runner up to Kathleen in 2016 (3rd fastest); then the fifth through tenth finishes: Robin Watkins (2014; Angela Russell (2015); Sue Johnston (2004); Bethany Hunter Patterson (2002); Kerry Owens (2005) and Gaynor Bourgeois (2016). Sheila’s time in 2018 bumped the AWOL Diana Widdowson’s 20:45 in her win in 2007. Diana is noted as AWOL, since she was set to return to race The Ring in 2018. Unfortunately, flash floods and horrific travel conditions between her home in Maryland and the Fort Valley prevented her from joining us in the Signal Knob parking lot for the race start on Saturday morning.
Sheila Vibert was joined on the race podium in 2018 by a breakthrough performance by Ashley Carr, who finished seventh overall and second woman in a time of 21:16. Ashley was (reluctantly) returning for her second crack at The Ring, and in so doing she knocked nearly two and a half hours off of her finishing time from 2017. Finishing ninth overall, and third among the 18 women who started this year’s race was Daisy Weill. Daisy, like Sheila and Ashley, was running her second Ring. But unlike the other two, Daisy is now a new member of The Fellowship, having had to drop in her previous attempt at the final aid station at Powell’s Fort Camp, nearly 63 miles into the race, due to injury. So redemption was particularly sweet for Daisy! Not only did she make the race podium, and gain her eligibility to run the Reverse Ring, but she was the hands-down consensus winner of the “Ring Rash” competition for this year. Everyone who runs The Ring comes away bloodied by the experience, so we cannot offer a Best Blood award. But the Ring Rash on Daisy’s legs displayed the degree of effort she put into her run far and away better than anyone else’s. Congratulations (or something), Daisy!
There are a plethora of stories that come out of all races, and that much more so from the adventure that is The Ring. One more of particular note: there appear to have been at least five runners who were completing a race of this distance for the first time: Jose Cardenas, Jesse Parker, Jon Jester, Jeffrey Klemm, and Amanda Lichy. The debate as to whether The Ring is harder than the MMT 100 (run over most of the same trails) resumed at the festive finish line after-party on Sunday morning. The fact that the debate was even occurring is a clear sign that all five of you are more than ready to make that next Big Leap into the 100 mile club. Congratulations on your accomplishments at the 2018 Ring!
Of the 42 finishers (for a sparkling finishers’ rate of 71%), fully 29 were new members of The Fellowship. This is second only to the 32 new members in the 2017 race. The Fellowship now numbers 242; and those are the only runners eligible to enter the 2019 Reverse Ring. Bur and Q of course have all 29 of you penciled in for that race! There is not yet a lottery for the Reverse Ring (unlike The Ring, which has now had a lottery for the past three years). But we may get close to needing one! Hard to imagine any of you will want to pass up on the opportunity to complete the same 71 mile run, only without the humidity and heat; without the sawbriers and the “Ring Rash”; without the final descent down Signal Knob; and without the bugs and snakes (particularly that scary “snake” that a race volunteer with the initials of Lydia Durand planted on a rock mere steps from the Signal Knob Bridge and the finish line). And if you are a lucky Reverse Ring runner, even the rocks may be “removed” if there is a nice base layer of snow covering much of the February trail.
And with that mention of a volunteer, the race directors want to publicly acknowledge the amazing support that this race and its runners receive from the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club in general (with funding, supplies and gear), and its incredible membership in particular, who turn out in high numbers to volunteer. Of the 42 finishers of this year’s race, 36 are club members! With at least 36 volunteers (38 if you want to count the RDs, but since we don’t do much work, that seems unfair) to aid the 59 starting field, the sting of The Ring is eased by this level of fabulous support. Thank you, all!
And we hope to see you again for the 17th running of The Ring, which is slated to be held during its customary Labor Day weekend slot, so August 31 - September 1, 2019.
2018 Photographs [submitted by numerous photographers, tho primarily the finish line work of volunteers Cathy and Mike Hart]