By Krista L. White
Cedar Mountain, N.C. — Amidst the shouts of children, playful barking of dogs and distant whinnying of horses, 226 runners lined up along the edge of the Guion Farm Access meadow for the annual DuPont Forest 12K Trail Run on March 21. Participants of all abilities came together to test their stamina on the rolling, wooded course and to support a good cause.
Touted as one of the area’s first trail running races, the event started 15 years ago as a fundraiser for the DuPont State Recreational Forest. Relatively new at the time, the 10,300 acre forest was fully established in 2000, and most recently gained notoriety as a film location for the first installment of the The Hunger Games movie series.
The annual race didn’t include scenes from the action filled movie, but portrays another kind of excitement.
The Forest Service doesn’t close the multi-use trail for the race, so runners were likely to come across horses, mountain bikers and hikers, said Jason Guidry, forest supervisor for the DuPont State Recreational Forest.
Guidry said that he wasn’t worried too much about the runners on the trails having a conflict with the other users. “The thought with runners is that it is easy for them to step off the trail if need be,” he said.
Local horseman and Blue Ridge Cowboy Church pastor, Louis Gibson, and a small group from his congregation were saddling horses to ride the trail that morning.
When asked if he thought that the runners were going to be a problem for his pack, Gibson just chuckled and said it would be “good for the horses.”
Capped at 300 participants, the race has a mainly local draw, although anyone can enter. The sponsor of the race and owner of the Asheville-based store Jus’ Running, Norman Blair, said that it is the kind of run that has an attraction for a wide variety of people due to its runnability.
“Pretty much anyone can come and do it — provided they aren’t a total beginner,” said Blair.
Gary Smith, 54, of Kinnelon, N.J., learned of race the day before the event and registered that morning.
Smith, who owns a pet shop, is an avid trail runner and runs recreationally with friends who are training for the Boston Marathon. He said this race was “right up his alley.”
“The course was great,” said Smith. “I passed horses and mountain bikers, but it wasn’t a problem. I’ll be back to run again next year,” he added.
The race’s winner, 36-year-old Scott Williams of Asheville, said that the race’s draw for him is the location. “I love running out here because DuPont is very distinct and different from Asheville,” he said.
Williams, a speech pathologist, runs semi-competitively in his free time. He is sponsored by the Asheville Running Collective, Jus’ Running and La Sportiva.
The fundraiser brought in $2,720 for the forest. Guidry said donations from the race will be folded into the forest’s operating budget to support initiatives such as education programs, gravel replenishment and trail maintenance.