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Originally published: 2012-07-24 09:41:17
Last modified: 2012-07-24 15:45:57

Dreading the Bear, again

Why do I sign up for a race that I dread doing each year? There are many races that I've done before and have no need to repeat.  

The Bear in Linville is one that I cannot resist.  It's a 5-mile run up Grandfather Mountain, with a climb elevation of 1,541  feet. 

The first year I participated was the most fun. I waited at the foot of the mountain filled with anticipation and naivete. Little did I know going so slow could hurt so much. Adding to the physical pain is the mental torture of 2 miles of steep switchbacks. With every thought of, the end has to be just around this corner, comes the realization that I am not in Florida anymore.

Another factor of potential misery is the weather. No matter what the temperature is at the bottom of the mountain, by the time I reach the top, soaked with sweat and legs throbbing, it is frigid, windy and foggy. Rain is not unusual. Once I do finish, I am so relieved that I am giddy, much like I felt after having my first child.

So why do I sign up again and again? Since there is a limit of 800 participants and it closes out within a few weeks, I can easily just use the excuse that I missed the deadline this year. In fact, I register within hours of the first day allowed. Then, immediately the dread begins. I think, Oh no, why did I just do that?  

The dread mounts as months pass. As I line up for the fifth year in a row, it's almost clear who has run the Bear before and who has not. 

Those who haven't experienced the never-ending climb are laughing, smiling and chatting with other newbies. Runners who have labored through the Bear previously look grim, avoid eye contact and are muttering to themselves. At about 3 1/2 miles, the first-timers are shell-shocked. They look up confused and often cry out,  Where is the top? We veterans know to keep our heads down and not waste any pulmonary efforts.   

Once at the peak, the novices take pictures and swear their watches are broken because it took so much longer than they expected, while the experts are all business — and are on the first shuttle bus heading back down to Linville.  

I know I'm not making this sound fun. It's kind of like knowing that you are scared to death of scary movies, but then you keep paying to see them again and again. It is kind of fun. You just can't help yourself. You dread that knock on the door and you know that the actor shouldn't open it, but of course he does, and then, eeeek.  Blood and gore ensues. 

The Bear is my scary movie and I can't wait until next year's release.

Lori HartBeech Mountain
Hollywood, Fla.