Black Mountain trail run gains traction every year
Organizers of the inaugural Rock the Quarry knew they had something special when some 60 people gathered at the Grove Stone & Sand quarry in September 2008.
Ten years later - at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, actually - hundreds of runners at the 10th Annual Rock the Quarry Trail Challenge 5K & Kids Fun Run will demonstrate how far the race has come. The race is expected to raise thousands of dollars for Black Mountain Home for Children and the Asheville Museum of Science, formerly known as Colburn Earth Science Museum.
Jon Neumann is vice president of Material Sales Co., the exclusive sales agent for Hedrick Industries, which has owned and operated Grove Stone & Sand since 1954. Neumann has been involved with Rock the Quarry since the beginning, when it was a four-mile run (it's now 3.1 miles).
“It started with our vice president of land management, Jason Conner, and one of the (Hedrick) owner’s daughters, Sarah-Vance Goodman,” Neumann, who began directing the race in 2010, said. “They knew we had 16 acres of beautiful property. Sarah-Vance was a big runner, and she talked with the folks at Jus’ Running in Asheville (who) gave some guidance and helped come up with the name.”
The Grove Stone team contemplated ways it could draw a larger crowd, given that the quarry - located at the end of Lake Eden Road - has the capacity to accommodate hundreds.
The run through the quarry offered - and offers - panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. But the four-mile route also had significant elevation gains. The first race went to the top of the quarry and down the back side.
“The elevation gain was like 1,000 feet,” Neumann said. “I think it was just too hard for some people.”
About five years ago he and the other organizers decided to make it easier. In the hopes of attracting more people, they made the run a 5K. The change worked. Rock the Quarry registration went from about 100 runners to 300 participants last year (that number includes the kids fun run).
This year's run should exceed that number, Neumann said. Even the runs for people who want to practice the course before the race have gotten more popular.
"We had our last one for this year's race last week (Aug. 24), and 60-70 runners showed up," he said. "That's as big of a crowd as we had for our first race."
Expecting more participation, Grove Stone started looking to find ways to increase the money it raised for neighboring Black Mountain Home and the Asheville museum. In 2012, Asheville-based Carolina CAT became a presenting sponsor, and the event began to raise more money.
"We raised $7,000 that year and around $14,000 in 2013," Neumann said. "Then we raised $23,000 in 2014."
The proceeds from Rock the Quarry have always gone to the home and the museum, and the amounts have increased every year since 2012. Since 2015, that contribution has been boosted by the venue fees the quarry gets from hosting the Spartan Race, held at the quarry every August.
"We take that fee and put it in the Rock the Quarry Pot," Neumann said. "Last year we raised over $50,000."
The contributions from Hedrick have been "invaluable" to Black Mountain Home for Children, its president, Tom Campbell, said. The home has been in Black Mountain since 1923.
"We wouldn't be here without them," he said. "The government money for this type of program is becoming less and less, but we're serving more and more kids. Partnerships in the community come together to help us continue to take care of these kids."
The home needs to raise more than $1 million each year to serve its children, Campbell said. The home served more than 100 children last year, he said.
"We're blessed to have community partners like Grove Stone who get involved and help offset those costs," he said.
The children at the home look forward to the race, which takes place in the shadow of their home.
"We've had kids run in the race, and we normally have a lot of staff who run it too," Campbell said. "Even the kids who don't run head down there to cheer the ones who do as they come across the finish line."
Hedrick has also been a significant part of the museum's growth, according to museum executive director Anna Priest, who will be running in her fifth Rock the Quarry this year.
"The money raised by this race directly supports our operating cost for our education department," Priest said. "We serve about 12 counties in Western North Carolina through field trips and outreach. This contribution helps us continue to provide an affordable rate for the field trips that come through our doors. It's the major contribution that we look forward to every September. And it really kick-starts the school year."
Last November when the Asheville Museum of Science moved from its former Pack Place location to its current location at 43 Patton Ave., Hedrick contributed in a big way, according to Priest.
"They've been not only our biggest cheerleader, but a huge financial supporter as well," she said. "Through this race and their relationships in the community, they've really helped raise awareness of our organization."
With dozens of sponsors currently, it doesn't look like Rock the Quarry will stop growing any time in the near future, according to Neumann.
"This year it looks like we'll exceed last year's money raised again," he said. "And that's not even counting registration money. It's really grown. In the early years I would've never thought we would've raised this much money with a 5K."
Ready to Rock?
Cost: $30 through Sept. 15, $35 on race day
Kids fun run: $5 (10 and under)