On the run

Whether you’re a tortoise, a hare, or some more middle-of-the-road sort of critter, The Mountain Sports Festival has a running event for you. Runners young and old, ace and novice, can put their feet to the test in a trail run, a long jaunt through Biltmore Estate, or one of two downtown-Asheville events.

Those who like their running rugged may opt for Friday’s Trace Ridge Trail Run — about nine miles of rock, river crossings and hill-climbing. Because the course is a narrow trail that winds through the Pisgah National Forest, “We start runners in one-minute increments,” explains Race Director Adam Pinkston. “In the first three miles, runners cross the Mills River 10 times,” he says. “In the next three miles, you have a lot of vertical gain.” It doesn’t get any easier after that, either; this one isn’t for beginners, Pinkston warns.

“I have a spot on the entry form in which I ask about the runner’s experience,” he explains. “The average person who runs this race has been running for years and has done several trail races before.”

If you favor a shorter outing on gentler terrain, consider the Biltmore House 15K Classic. But since every day’s a workday at American’s largest privately owned palace, you’ll have to get up early: The race begins at 7:15 a.m., and runners must clear out by 10 a.m. From the winery, says coordinator Carolyn Shorter, the course “climbs up to Deer Park and loops in front of Biltmore Estate, then down by the azalea garden and the lagoon, then along the French Broad River and back to the winery.” The Classic is co-sponsored by the Asheville Kiwanis Club, the Asheville Track Club and Biltmore Estate.

The race, says Shorter, draws professional runners from far and wide, but locals also tackle the 9.3-mile course. “The $3,000 purse [attracts] the professional runner. … But a lot of people are there just to run and for the opportunity to run on the Biltmore Estate.” The $40 registration fee includes a two-day pass to Biltmore and a T-shirt.

If the Biltmore 15K doesn’t appeal to you, consider a first-time MSF event: the Tortoise & Hare 5K run/walk. The two-loop, downtown-Asheville course “is relatively flat for Asheville,” notes Tortoise & Hare co-owner Randy Ashley.

Having a looped course “means you get to see the runners, the strategy, how runners advance,” says Ashley, and “having a festival and a road race going on at the same time should make for a good spectator sport.” The shorter, easier course makes this a more accessible event for competitors. “I want to cater to the everyday runner or someone who runs three or four times per week,” he says.

And if that’s not enough to get you lacing up your running shoes, Ashley notes that the 5K also offers this incentive: The evening event will end, conveniently, “by the food and beer booths, close to where the bands will be playing.”

Schedule and more info

Biltmore Estate 15K, Sunday, June 2, 7:15 a.m., Biltmore Estate.

The 15K course winds through the grounds of Biltmore Estate, starting at the winery and climbing to the Deerpark Restaurant, looping in front of the Big House, through the walled garden to the azalea garden, passing the lagoon along the French Broad River, and finishing back at the winery. The scenic loop includes two challenging hills with fast descents, and the final 4K is relatively flat. The course is USATF-certified.

To control vehicular traffic during the race, viewing will be limited to the start/finish line at the winery. Everyone entering the estate for the race must present their special race ticket.

Registration: Participants are required to pre-register. Registration fee is $40 ($45 after May 28). The fee includes a two-day pass to Biltmore Estate, valid after 2p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday. Additional two-day tickets for family and friends may be purchased for $25.50. Late registration and packet pickup is available at race headquarters Friday, May 31 (4-8 p.m.) and Saturday, June 1 (noon-8 p.m.). Packets not picked up by this time will be available only from 5:30-6:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 2.

Awards: Awards will be presented at about 10 a.m. on Sunday at the race finish. Cash awards will be presented to the top three male and female finishers, top two masters (40-plus) male and female and top three male and female finishers in each age group.

Directions: Race headquarters/packet pickup is at the Doubletree Biltmore Avenue Hotel on Highway 25/Hendersonville Road, just north of exit 50/50B off Interstate 40. From downtown Asheville, take Biltmore Avenue south about two miles. After crossing the railroad tracks into Biltmore Village, take a right at the next stoplight. Biltmore Estate will be straight ahead.

For more information, contact Carolyn Shorter at 667-5385.

Trace Ridge Trail Run, Friday, May 31, 4 p.m., Trace Ridge trailhead.

This race is for the well-trained. The tough, nine-mile course begins at the Trace Ridge trailhead. After crossing the Mills River 12 times in the first three miles, it continues with six very demanding uphill miles. Participation is limited to 120 runners, who will start one minute apart.

Registration: The $20 registration fee includes a T-shirt; pre-registration only. Entry forms are available at Black Dome Mountain Sports (251-2001) and Jus’ Running (252-7867).

Directions: Take I-26 East to 280 South, toward Brevard. Just after the junction of N.C. 191, turn right at North Mills River Road (see sign for North Mills River Recreation Area). Drive five miles to Wash Creek Road (FR 5000); turn right. Go two miles, then turn left on Hendersonville Reservoir Road (FR142). Parking is on the right; the start is up the road one-half mile. (Parking is limited; please car-pool).

For more information, contact Adam Pinkston at 251-2001 (e-mail shutinridge@yahoo.com).

Tortoise and Hare 5K Run/Walk, Saturday, June 1, 6 p.m.

This race will be held on a downtown dual-loop with a rolling course. Some of the proceeds will go to Our Voice, an Asheville rape-crisis-intervention organization.

Registration: Entry forms are available at The Tortoise and the Hare (Biltmore Office Park, One Town Square, Suite 145): Running Outfitters or at the vendor booth at Festival Center until 5:30 p.m. The registration fee is $17 including T-shirt; (a $5-off, no T-shirt option is also available). Cash prizes will go to the top three male and top three female contestants overall. The top male and female master runners will receive cash prizes as well.

The race begins at Festival Center in City/County Plaza.

For more information, contact Randy or Mark at 681-5325, e-mail wrashley@hotmail.com, or visit the Web site at www.thrunning.com.

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