Maintaining trails for ‘monster’ of a race

Fred McCormick

Near the middle of May, the trails through Montreat will fill with more than 100 runners seeing how far they can run in six, 12 or 24 hours.

But before the Black Mountain Monster returns for its seventh year, Mike Guyer and several volunteers had work to do.

Vertical Runner Black Mountain hosted a trail maintenance day on Sunday, April 10. Runners were invited to help maintain the popular trail system. Guyer, who owns Relentless Running Events, the company producing the race, is also the event manager for Vertical Runner, the local running store that is the main sponsor of this year’s Monster race.

“This is something that we’re going to try to do twice a year going forward,” he said. “We’ll try to organize a group in the spring and fall.”

The system, which Guyer estimates includes some four miles of trails, is not only the home of the annual endurance race. It is also a vital resource for the area’s thriving running community.

“We do our some of our weekly group runs that we do at Vertical Runner on those trails,” Guyer said. “A lot of runners around Black Mountain use those trails, and since Montreat (College) is so cool with letting us use those trails, we thought it was important to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Volunteers picked up trees and limbs that had fallen down along the trail and added mulch to sections of the trail as well. Small drainage channels were added in areas where standing water had been a problem.

“I run those trails at least once a week, and I always see people out there using them,” he said. “It’s a popular place to go that is really beginner-friendly because we are surrounded by all of these mountains and this technical terrain.”

And the relatively flat, scenic path provides the perfect setting for a unique event like the Black Mountain Monster, which returns May 21-22.

“The Black Mountain Monster has been in that location for the last four or five years,” Guyer said. “And since everyone is so fond of that course, it’s a perfect location for it.”

The endurance race takes place on a 5K course. Runners test their stamina for six, 12 or 24 hours.

“Say you’re running the 24-hour race. Then you start at 10 a.m. on Saturday and you see how many miles you can run on that course until 10 a.m. on Sunday,” Guyer said. “We keep track of the completed miles and runners are then ranked by whoever runs the most.”

Currently there are 130 runners registered for this year’s Monster, 30 fewer than the 160 that participated in 2015. But with more than a month to go, Guyer believes more people will run this year than last.

Many of those runners travel just to experience such a unique event, according to Guyer.

“I bet around 50 percent of the registered runners are from out of state,” he said.

He added that even more people are expected to experience the atmosphere surrounding the race and support the runners.

“I have live music scheduled throughout the day,” he said. “We have around five local artists scheduled to take the stage just so there will be a good vibe throughout the day and people can come just to spectate and hang out.”