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Grandfather Mountain Games
Avery County, North Carolina
2000 Games
Thanks to Michael Craig for this information
Click on images to see the larger picture!

MarathonSaturday dawned in the Great Smokies with a huge sunny smile, at least where we were, the weather being very very tricky in these parts.   At any rate,  the Electric Scotland crew was up and ready to go by 7:30 AM full of anticipation.   As eager as we were to start a new day, I am afraid we were just “Johnny come latelys”.   For you see, that rare breed of individuals, the marathon runners, had already started their race from Boone to MacRae meadows at 07:00.

Mitchell CraigMarathon running is grueling enough on a flat surface, imagine running the 26.2 miles up a mountainside.   When you factor in the hills and valleys in between, this hardy breed will ended up having transversed an astonishing 3,000+ feet of vertical climb.   If that doesn’t have you awed to your shaking legs, then consider that the last 13 miles are all uphill.

Despite this Herculean obstacle, I am told that the marathon has a 96% completion rate. Quake in mortal fear you couch potatoes and make way for this year’s champion, Mitchell Craige!   Oh, to have claimed him as one of my own. But alas no.  The only time you will see a Craig, moving at a high rate of speed is…. to the dinner table.

From the ranks of the foot soldiers, we next moved into the realm of the iron men, the Scottish Heavy Events.   These athlete’s are cut from an altogether different cloth, one of granite & steel. They are the sort of guys that when they want a steak, they just reach out and bite the steer off at the legs. 

Heavy AthleticsThrowing the HammerSheaf Break

The pictures can try to convey some of the massive strength expended in these sports, but only if you are there can you hear the deep “thud” as the heavy hammer, weight or sheaf hits the ground.

Tossing the 20lb SheafSome of the records are mind-boggling.  Can you picture being able to thrust a 28-pound projectile 76+ feet?  Or tossing a 20 LB sheaf of hay 28 feet in the air?   How about a 22 pound hammer almost 111 feet? Seeing these men in action, you can visualize them holding onto a two handed Claymore Sword or battle ax with mayhem on their minds.   It is no wonder the Scots enjoyed such a fierce image.

While observing the hammer throw, I got the chance to watch Petur Gudmundsson (No. 461) a national champion at this event.  If you look at his picture you will see the 2” wide steel stakes sticking out from his boots. The purpose of the wicked looking chunks of metal is to be driven into the ground for support as the hammer is thrown.

Tossing the 50 Lb WeightPutting the StoneTossing the Caber

One of the uniquely Scottish events is the tossing of the Caber, which resembles nothing so much as a telephone pole.   There is no set weight for one of these logs but suffice to say they are very heavy. I tried lifting one up on the rack and could barely budge it off it’s mount. It takes a tremendous amount of strength just  to hold a Caber upright, but then to balance it as you run, set and heave it straight up, well that is over the top.

Scottish Heavy Events are about strength, but the more you observe, the more you see that balance, control  and discipline are also a large portion of the formula.  Brute muscle power alone wouldn’t get you far in this field.  Keary Smith shows off a bit of light hearted dexterity in balancing a pitchfork on his chin.

Next we came upon the Scottish Wrestling events.  Sweep from your mind any reference to the sort of stuff you see on the television set.  This is the real thing.  Scottish Wrestling to the neophyte is more akin to Japanese Sumo or Grecian-Roman style.   Both men stand chest to chest and grasp around their opponent locking their hands into a clasp with the fingers of one hand folding into the other like opposing “J”’s.   No wrist locks are allowed.

Opposing J HoldWrestling Awards

Once the whistle has blown, the struggle ensues.  The object being to throw your opponent to the ground. In this case, “to the ground” is literal as there is no spring loaded canvas to break the fall.  You can see from the picture, that these throws can be awesome. When a object as big and heavy as these guys picks up momentum, the earth literally shakes as they hit the unyielding sod.   I listened to them between rounds, exchanging advice, the best of friends... right up to the whistle blows... then it’s total war.   You can see the strain on their faces, hear their breath like steam locomotives.  Bones have been known to crack, knees to blow out.   Yet to a to a man, they just shake it off and go on.

WrestlersSomething else about this breed of warrior, they are earnest, quiet and respectful, in contrast to the bragging “pro’s”.   As for me, I won’t give the T.V. guys much of a chance in this circuit.  These guys  come to wrestle, they don’t play.  Ask this year’s Heavy Weight Champ Larry Boyd or the runner up Larry Grissom why they do it.   Probably all you would get is a smile.

From the heavy weight world of wrestling we moved on some more solitary sports, one’s they pit you against yourself as an opponent.  The High Jump and Long Jump.   As you watch the jumpers standing 30 yards or more from their launch point they remind you of racing thoroughbreds, kind of pawing the grass, checking the wind then all of a sudden accelerating and letting fly.   Pictured is D.J. Stewart arching over the high jump bar and and Jeremy Turner taking the long leap.

High JumpLong Jump

From there is was on to watch the runners.  All manner of distances are contested, the 100 yard dash, the 220, 440 and 880 as well.   Then the 1 Mile and 2 Mile contests to round out the events.  What makes these races more unique is that they are right around 2/3’s of a mile in the air.


The last event we observed, being worn slam out from just watching and dragging a feather weight cameras around, at least they were light when we started,  was the aerial ballet of the pole vault.

Pole VaultPole Vault

In my mind it takes a really special breed to go running pell-mell  down a track lugging a pole then plant same with the clear intention of using it as a giant spring to launch yourself in an attempt to get over a pole sitting way up there in the sky.    You have to be able to run, have really good upper body strength and nerves of steel to bring this act onto the road.

What really blew my mind was a fellow that appeared to be around my age....gracefully flying up there with the best of them.   My hat is off to that gentleman, but that is about the only part of me that is
going to get airborne any time soon!

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