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The Rope Mill Half Marathon is the fourth race in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup and easily ranks as the hottest event in the series. Just outside of the staggeringly diverse city of Atlanta, Georgia, lies the quaint suburb of Woodstock. With access to miles of multiuse trails and acres upon acres of overgrown open space, it’s no wonder that Woodstock has a blossoming trail-running community.
The Mountain Cup continues to draw world-class competitors who compete for the cash purse and the glory that comes with it. In this small town, runners were surprised to see Zach Miller, winner of the 2015 North Face 50-Mile, in the ranks, and there were whispers that 64-minute half-marathoner Patrick Cheptoeck would show. Also among the racers was past Mountain Cup champion Ryan Woods, who has been seen rising in the ranks of obstacle course racing.
From the elite racers to the first-time trail runners, the heat and the switchbacks were the great equalizers. Lisa Randall told runners before the start to “not rely on their GPS devices because the course is so curvy.” At the start of the race, the temps had already reached sweltering status and the humidity coming off the nearby water made the air thick.
Third-place Joy Miller (top); winner Taylor Ward. Photo: Quinn Carrasco/La Sportiva
Winding through the park, the race course passed through the start area three times. This made it a nail-biting spectator experience. We watched the top three runners come through as a tight pack through the whole race. Miller, Cheptoek and Patrick Reagan ran in a tight group for all but the last bit of the course, pulling each other along and upping the pace. The top women, Taylor Ward, Rachel Harley and Joy Miller, were not far behind, with a little more space in between one another, but still running within minutes of one another through the whole race. Around the curves and under the canopy, they dripped sweat and pushed their legs to keep turning over.
At the finish line, the competitors filed in with first place going to Patrick Cheptoek (1:17:38). Shortly after, Miller (1:18:05) and Reagan (1:18:40) came in second and third. The last hill had finally broken up the front pack and allowed Cheptoek to pull away. The women’s race was led by Taylor Ward (1:30:44), Rachel Harley (1:34:10) and Joy Miller (1:37:22).
The course of the Rope Mill Half passed through the start/finish area three times, making for exciting spectating. Photo: Quinn Carrasco/La Sportiva
Taylor Ward is a new face in the trail-running community; in fact, Rope Mill was her first trail race ever. Needless to say, she’s going to give the rest of the competitors a run for their money at the Mountain Cup Championship, the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase in Park City this July.
With only one race left until the Championship, the competition is really starting to take shape. Don’t forget that Siskiyuou Outback is now your last chance to qualify for the prize purse at the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase! In order to qualify, racers must run at least one of the Mountain Cup Qualifiers. The Siskiyou Outback takes place July 23 just outside of Ashland, Oregon.
Trail Runner is a media partner of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup.