Blue Ridge Relay returns Sept. 6-7
One-hundred and 50 teams will be running in the ninth annual
Blue Ridge Relay on Sept. 6 and 7.
The Blue Ridge Relay, which started in 2005 with a field of 10 teams and less than 120 runners, will bring more than 1,500 runners to the High Country on Friday and Saturday.
The Blue Ridge Relay is one of the longest running relay races in the United States.
The Blue Ridge Relay attracts runners from all over the Southeast and the USA, including seven teams from the High Country and neighboring counties). It is a 208-mile team running relay that follows mostly country roads as it winds its way through North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and Black Mountains.
Teams consist of four to 12 runners rotating through 36 segments.
The course features some of the region’s most spectacular scenery, including the balds of Grayson Highlands State Park, the New River, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain and the Toe River and has more than 20,000 feet of gain and 22,000 feet of descent.
The course, which starts in Grayson Highlands State Park, winds its way through Jefferson, West Jefferson, Todd, Boone, Blowing Rock, Linville, Newland, Plumtree, Spruce Pine, Bakersville, Burnsville, Barnardsville and finally finishes in downtown Asheville.
The current course record set by the Asheville Running Collective in 2011, a team based in Asheville, is 20 hours and 24 minutes (5:53 per mile pace).
“However, this year’s field may be the fastest ever with three teams that appear to be competing for the victory and possibly the first sub-20 hour,” a spokesman for the event said. “These top teams include The Knoxville Track Club, Charlotte Running Club and the Asheville Running Collective.
“The Asheville Running Collective may be based in Asheville, but the team is comprised of some of the top distance runners in Western North Carolina, including two from the High Country — Caleb Masland and Peyton Hoyle. What will it take to break 20 hours? Approximately 5:45 per mile for 208 miles in the Blue Ridge and Black Mountains.”
Not every team is gunning for the overall victory or the sub-20, the spokesman said. The majority of teams run for a variety of other reasons — the challenge, the competition, the scenery and the friendships.
“We have been amazed at the number of teams that return to run the Blue Ridge Relay year after year,” Ken Sevensky, Blue Ridge Relay race director, said. “We’re hosting several teams that have runners who have competed all eight years and many teams that have run a majority of the years — that’s a huge compliment.”
“There’s another reason why teams return, and it’s the support staff and volunteers,” he said.
“The majority of the community groups have been working with us for five, six and seven years, and there are several groups that staff more than one exchange zone/support station. These community groups have become such an integral part of the relay. They’re experienced, professional and roll out the red carpet of hospitality for the runners.
“At the finish line, one of the first comments that runners share is, ‘Where do you find groups of people to work the entire course and especially at 3 a.m. … and they do it with smiles and enthusiasm.”
Several community groups also provide food for the runners, including gallons of homemade soup and fresh cornbread (Avery County Smooth Dancers and Key Club), hundreds of baked potatoes (Bakersville Fire and Rescue) and hundreds of pounds of pancakes (Pensacola community).
In addition to the community groups that volunteer along the 208-mile course, this year’s charitable partners are the High Country Toy Run. The High Country Toy Run and Eagle Rock Ministries have been providing gifts in the form of warm clothing, coats, boots, toys and other personal items to children in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties and the surrounding area for the last eight years.
For Christmas 2012, 884 children received a large bag filled with gifts on Christmas morning, including a warm winter coat and hat, jeans or pants, sweater or top, boots or shoes and toys and other personal items.
For additional information about the Blue Ridge Relay, visit http://www.blueridgerelay.com or call (336) 877-8888.