Sept. 6, 2013. One-hundred and fifty teams will be running the ninth annual Blue Ridge Relay this 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 over 1,500 runners to he High Country on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6 and 7. 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.
Described as “one of the most popular and inevitably longstanding events in the region and beyond,” by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, the Blue Ridge Relay attracts runners from all over the Southeast and USA including seven teams from the High Country and neighboring counties.
It’s a 208-mile team running relay with teams consiting of 4-12 runners rotating through 36 legs that follows mostly country roads as it winds its way through North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and Black Mountains. 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 over 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, Burnesville, Barnardsville and finally finishes in toward Asheville.
Is 20 hours unbreakable? The current course record set by the Asheville Running Collective (2011) a team based in Asheville, is 20 hours and 24 minutes. However, this year’s field may be the fastest ever with 3 teams that appear to be competing for the victory and possibly the first sub-20 hour. These top teams include the Knoxville Track Club, Charlotte Running Club and 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? 5:45 per mile for 208 miles in the Blue Ridge and Black Mountains.
Not every team is gunning for the overall victory of the sub-20. The majority of teams run for a variety of other reasons: the challenge, the competition, the scenery or friendships.
“We have been amazed at the number of teams that return to the Blue Ridge Relay year after year,” said Ken Sevensky, Blue Ridge Relay race director.
“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 ant it’s the support, staff and volunteers.
“The majority of the community groups have been working with us for 5,6, and 7 years and there are several groups that staff more than one exchange zone or 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 sunners,” said Sevensky.
“At the finish line, one of the comments that runners share is ‘where do you fid 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 (Baskerville 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 has 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 8 years.
For Christmas 2012, 884 children received a large bag filled with gifts on Christmas morning, including warm winter coats and hats, jeans, pants, sweaters, tops, boots and shoes and of course a couple of toys and personal items.
For additional information about the Blue Ridge Relay visit www.BlueRidgeRelay.com or call 336.877.8888.
To The Start…