Article Published: Sep. 6, 2012 | Modified: Sep. 9, 2012
Nearly 1,500 runners, comprising 140 teams, will be running in the eighth annual Blue Ridge Relay Sept. 7 and 8 in the High Country.
The Blue Ridge Relay, which started in 2005 with a field of 10 teams and less than 120 runners, will bring close to 1,500 runners to the area this weekend.
The Blue Ridge Relay is a 208-mile team running relay and one of the longest running relay races in the United States.
“It is truly an amazing event that pushes your body, allows you to see beautiful scenery and creates amazing memories with old and new friends. I would recommend this race to any runner who truly enjoys the feeling one gets from running. Thanks again.” — This is just one of the enthusiastic comments from one of the past runners of the Blue Ridge Relay, organizers said.
Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine also calls the Blue Ridge Relay “one of the most popular and inevitably longstanding events in the region and beyond.”
Teams consist of four to 12 runners who rotate through 36 segments that follow scenic country roads. The course features such scenery as the balds of Grayson Highlands State Park, the New River, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain and the Toe River, and has over 12,000 feet of gain and 14,000 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.
“We have been amazed at the number of teams that return to run the Blue Ridge Relay year after year,” said Ken Sevensky, Blue Ridge Relay race director. “We’re hosting several teams that have run all eight years and many teams that have run a majority of the years, that’s a huge compliment. Teams return for a variety of reasons — the challenge, the scenery, the competition, the friendships, etc. There’s another reason, and it’s the support staff and volunteers.
“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 and support station — one group in Avery County staffs five zones. 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.”
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 and Ashe Habitat for Humanity.
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, Ashe and the surrounding area for the last seven years.
“The first year of the toy run, we helped 54 children. This is when we realized that the need was much greater; for this past Christmas (2011), we did not turn one child away, and 757 children received a large bag filled with gifts on Christmas morning,” Sevensky said.
Ashe Habitat for Humanity, which became an affiliate in October 2008, is nearing completion of its first home.