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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!