By David Yon
We all know the “Wild” in the name of this event is to make sure we don’t forget former GWTC member Ed Wild. However, there is a common perception that the “Mountain” in the Wild Mountain Scramble refers to a stretch of trail in the national forest that rises sharply over soft sand to a gut ripping peak known to those who run in this forest regularly as “the Mountain.”
That is ok with one person because he prefers to operate in the mountain’s shadows – far from the limelight. But this “event,” under the direction of the Mountain Rules and Race Committee (MRRC) is never quite what is seems to be. I suspect the real “mountain” in this run sometimes ties his hair up in a ponytail while looking out at the world and saying “Give me your best shot because when the chips are down and my friends need me, I will be there.”
If this mountain man has a friend with cancer he is there, and if a middle school like Gretchen Everhart needs someone to run a finish line he is there, and if a high school cross country coach needs someone to help bring a team together he is there, and if a stressed-out race director on Thanksgiving Day needs him to shuttle more than 1200 runners through a finish line he is still there. So really, the New Year’s Eve storm did not have a chance at knocking this event out, especially not after he pulled out his Kent Vann supplied Barney Fife shirt.
Aside from the mountain man, the bulk of the energy for the Seventh Third Annual Wild Mountain Scramble came from MRRC member Fran McLean who made sure runners had two chances at this year’s course. There is an irreverent flavor to this gathering that comes straight from her heart.
As 2002 approached its end on Tuesday evening a ferocious storm began battering the city and the forest with buckets of rain and blasts of lightning looking to slam exposed runners. The slimmed down MRRC (Fran and Mountain Man) made the sane responsible decision to offer runners the chance to run on New Year’s Day instead of risking life and limb in the storm. After all, the Scramble has been run on New Year’s Day at least three times. The storm seemed a fitting end to a year that had its share of hardship and disappointment.
Now we all know the intelligence quotient for GWTC members does not always rise to the common sense level, so despite the fact that the “official” start was being moved to the next day many in the group that showed up didn’t quite get the full picture. And there was that mountain man who had rigged a cover out of twine and a tarp to protect the “supplies” for post race celebrations.
Before you could say “not very smart,” an unofficial, but good size, group was off contesting the elements and the course. To be official they just had to report their times before the next day’s event. Among the least sane of the group was GWTC leader Jane Johnson who hopped on a small plane to fly from Tampa through the storm, change in her car and start her run long after everyone else had taken off just to be part of it all. Sounds like just the right person to lead this club.
The drenched crowd that took on the elements New Year’s Eve seemed to pull something special from the mountain’s strength and their smiles and laughter created the year’s final memories as they took the ugliness and disappointment of 2002’s closing day and made something special out of it.
Not surprisingly, nearly every one of them came back the next morning to watch the sun and blue skies claim the start of 2003 and participate in the “official” version of the run. Those who could not return sent their times to be included by the MRRC in the mystical madness they use to figure out winners and losers.
The side note is that Gary Droze took first place again, even though he was not seen crossing the finish line first – remember things often aren’t what they seem in this mountain race. Funny thing, though, there simply were not any losers in this race as all of the participants went home with a prize and smile.
Special thanks to Fran McLean and the “mountain man” for getting us through the rain and lightning of 2002 and into the blue skies of 2003. Here’s it to hoping it is a happy and peaceful New Year for all.