BLACK MOUNTAIN — The 19th annual Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge begins on Saturday, February 27, 2016, 7 a.m., at the Old Depot, 207 Sutton Ave., Black Mountain.
The two-part event includes 400 Challenge and Marathon runners. Challenge runners will compete to the peak of 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the U.S. east of the Mississippi. Marathon runners will compete to the Black Mountain Gap overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway, at an elevation of 5,340 feet. Both runner groups will start side by side in Black Mountain at an altitude of 2,360 feet.
Western North Carolina’s winter weather is unpredictable, with mountain trails often icy and hazardous, according to Jay Curwen, the event’s director. This year’s recent super-storm topped the Mount Mitchell with 66 inches of snow. Winds can be more than 100 miles an hour on the peak, with temperatures at least 15 degrees lower than downslope.
Last year’s winner, 26-year-old Daniel Hamilton of Chattanooga, TN, clocked in at four hours and 55 minutes, while other challengers slogged their way to completion at six to nine hours.
The race’s founders, Wendell Begley, president of Black Mountain Savings Bank and also chairman of the board of the Swannanoa Valley Museum, and Trent Thomas, owner of Asheville’s Black Dome Mountain Sports, describe Challenge participants as “weekend warriors” who enjoy the physical encounter with hazardous trail and often harsh weather conditions.
Begley and Trent conceived of the event in the 1980s, as members of the Black Mountain/Swannanoa Valley Chamber of Commerce’s economic development committee.
Marathon and Challenge runners visit from as close as the Carolinas and other southern states, and as far as the West Coast, New England, Midwest, and the Rockies.
Volunteer and professional safety and wilderness rescue personnel are on hand at checkpoints throughout the area.
Following the race, the annual awards ceremony and banquet will be hosted at White Horse/Black Mountain on Saturday evening.
For more information or photos, contactwww.blackmountainmarathon.com.