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Saturday, June 14, 2008 -- Davis, WV / Canaan Valley Resort State Park
Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run (iPO Event Id#: 10677)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [2003] [2004] [2005] [2006] [2007]

Two Shatter 6-Year Course Record

Story and photos by Jason Black with photos by Julie Black.

Photo by Jason Black
Zach Irelan and Joel Wolpert
Course Record Breakers
We West Virginians already know how wild and wonderful this place can be.

Just imagine if your first time seeing it consisted of traversing through the thick of the Dolly Sods Wilderness and Canaan Valley, some of the most rugged, yet stunning terrain this state has to offer. That's exactly what many runners did on June 14, 2008.

The date marks the 6th annual running of the Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run hosted by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners (WVMTR).

Over the years I've overheard different words used to describe this race such as: brutal, tough, amazing, challenging, and many more. I'm sure that any of you who have ever had the nerve to actually try it could add a few choice words of your own.

But the one word I heard over and over again was beautiful. That was certainly the word of the day.

Photo by Julie Black
In the thick of the Dolly Sods
Third place over all finisher, Yassine Diboun (6:31:11) (from up state New York I believe) said, "We have some super trails were I'm from, but I have always heard about West Virginia. So I decided to give this a try. This whole experience has been great. The course was challenging, the place was beautiful, and the locals have been awesome!"

This year's race turned out to be truly special for race director, Dan Lehmann as well. I asked Dan what time I should be expecting the first finisher and he said, "In between noon and 12:30."

My son and I hung out at the finish line waiting to capture the elation of the finishers on camera while my wife trotted the trail with her lens to get her own action shots. Knowing that I had some time to kill according to Dan's calculations, I took "the boy" over to the Canaan Valley Resort pool (conviently located right next to the 40-mile finish line.)

As soon as I jumped in the pool people come running at me to tell me that the first place finisher had just passed water stop 8 and that I had better get on the ball.

Photo by Julie Black
Happy 10 miles into it
The clock said 11:21 am. So much for swimming! I got my stuff together and sure enough the old course record was shattered.

Joel Wolpert beat it by 15 minutes (5:54:19). He crossed the line and collapsed in the grass. Dan and his wife Jody nearly jumped over the pavilion railings to aid him with his cramping legs.

I hovered over the scene, snapping photos and listening to him talk about this other guy that had been pressing him the entire way. Joel had passed him at some point along the way.

I thought, "How could that be? You just crushed this 6 year old record and somebody was on you heels?"

My thoughts were lost as soon as Zachary Irelan came flying over the line, also breaking the old course record with a time of 6 hours and 18 seconds.

We were all amazed at how fast these two guys had just run 40 miles, standing there with our mouths gapping open. Just then Jody added, "Well, when two young studs push each other this is what you get."

Photo by Julie Black
Race Director Dan hugs a runner at the finish
In the women's division, Justine Morrison (7:41:44), repeated to another first place win (she won in 2007 too).

Rebecca Phalen claimed second in 7:48:33, and third place female Jenny Anderson (7:49:12) followed.

In every race recap we always mention the top 3 males and females, but this race was a little different.

I wish I could write about each and every one of the racers because just to be out there and try to accomplishment such a feat, well . . . it doesn't matter if you finished in 6 hours, 12 hours, or DNFed, at least you tried.

In my opinion this race is the cream of the crop and everyone who is part of it is a Winner.