A Corbin High School graduate was the first person across the finish line in a grueling, difficult ultra marathon trail race held this past Saturday at Cumberland Falls State Park.
Thirty-two-year-old Tony White, a native of Corbin now living in Nashville, Tenn., was the top runner in the 50-kilometer (31-mile) portion of the Moonbow Ultra. The event also featured shorter 25k and 10k routes.
“I was pretty sore after it was over mostly due to the number of falls I’d taken,” White said, calling the course one of the most “technical” he’d ever run in a trail race.
“My knees were bruised and I twisted my ankles several times. It was tough,” he added. “There were several trees down and there were just a lot of rocks and roots you had to be really careful about.”
White finished with a time of 5:44:48, about 22 minutes faster than the second place finisher, Greg Kotzbauer of Lexington.
“Everyone came back and said it was the most technical trail in the state of Kentucky, and it may get the reputation for being one of the hardest trail runs in the country,” said Dan Durick, the Lexington-based organizer and founder of the Moonbow Ultra.
“Tony ran a really good time. I think that may be a mark that stands for several years to come, at least.”
White is a 2003 graduate of Corbin High School where he was a multi-sport athlete (football, basketball, track, cross-country and baseball). He attended the University of Kentucky where he walked on with the school’s cross-country team. He said he got more interested in marathons and triathlons while attending UK, and even competed professionally for a few years.
White will be running in the New York City Marathon in November, and is also training for a 72-mile trail race next spring.
He lives in Nashville, Tenn. now with his wife and works as a real estate agent.
“I felt really good during the run Saturday. The first 11 miles were really tough and technical, so I was two or three minutes slower per mile than I’d hoped I’d be,” White said. “In the middle section, I was able to speed up a little bit and get more of a rhythm going.”
For winning, White said he received a plaque made from a bourbon barrel and a free pair of shoes from Salomon — a company that specializes manufacturing high-end shoes for trail running.
“I was hoping I would win … that was definitely my goal going into the race,” White said. “Every once in a while some ringer shows up that’s just significantly faster than you and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
White said he’s unsure whether he will return next year to defend his title in the race.
Durick, who works as a video editor for the Keeneland Association, said he definitely plans to organize another Moonbow Ultra race next year.
“I think from what I’ve heard, everyone seemed to be positive about it,” Durick said. “I’m exhausted and beat, but I’m ready to do it again for sure.”
Durick said he wanted to plan a race that started on the Moonbow Trail — part of the larger Sheltowee Trace Trail — because it is one of his favorite places to run and get away from the pressures of everyday life.
“I’m a whitewater kayaker and I’ve been to the area many times kayaking the Cumberland River,” he said. “I love trail running and mountain biking and that area is just kind of a getaway spot for me.”
About a year ago, Durick said he got the “crazy” idea to organize a race.
“I thought at the time that I’d be happy if 20 or 30 people came out,” Durick said. “It turned into a much bigger thing. We were sold out.”
Forest Service officials limited the number of participants to 150. Durick said he’s unsure if that limit will stay the same or go up next year.
The races went off at staggered times early Saturday morning. Runners of the 50k race began at 7:30 a.m. The 25K started at 8:00 a.m. followed by the 10k at 8:30 a.m. Only three participants across the three races did not finish.
A post race celebration was held Saturday afternoon at Sheltowee Trace Outfitters.
Participants in the race traveled from numerous states, including Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, California, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi and Florida.
Other local finishers of note, 19-year-old Samuel Callahan, of Corbin, was third in the 10k race with a time of 1:21:12. Abigail Callahan, 17, of Corbin, finished 8th overall, but was the top female finisher in the 10k with a time of 1:35:36.
Story by TRENT KNUCKLES