Letting Black Mountain charm me into shape

Fred McCormick

I've never liked running.

Fred McCormick

Even as a kid, I would run all day long playing pick-up basketball with my cousin in the hot Florida sun. But the action involved kept it interesting.

However, ask me to run around a track, and I resented the request. I think the monotony of running in a circle while doing an activity that I despise is more than I can handle.

And as I've gotten older my disdain for running has become more and more evident through my physique. As millions of people do as they get older, I've gained weight.

So when my childhood friends challenged me to a competition to see who could run the most miles in a month, I knew I couldn't say “no” because they would never let me live it down. I also knew I'd have a really hard time keeping up.

Not wanting to quit before I started, I came up with a plan.

I'm always amazed by the knowledge that many of the locals have about the Swannanoa Valley. And as a reporter I thought it would be great for me to develop a better understanding of Black Mountain. So I decided to travel it by foot.

And it's been an amazing experience.

I've logged around 170 miles since the beginning of May. While I would love to say it has all been running, some of it has been walking or even what could be described as “lumbering.”

But for me 170 miles is no small feat because of my aversion to running. But to my surprise it hasn't been that hard.

The physical demand has been there, whether going up the steep slope of Ninth Street or that one hill on the In-the-Oaks greenway, of which you know all about if you've ever walked or run there.

But finding the motivation to get out each day to travel those miles has been relatively easy.

Those visiting Black Mountain for the first time don't need more than two minutes to be charmed by the town after exiting the interstate.

And as interesting as the town is from the comfort of a car, it's even better at eye level.

The neighborhoods feature such a diverse mixture of homes. Styles range from craftsman to contemporary to farmhouse to Victorian.

So many of the yards have unique features and various gardens dot the landscape.

I've run by some community book-sharing programs and been barked at by almost every kind of dog imaginable. And obviously there are the amazing views that seem to be around every turn.

But what never really gets old to me is how pleasant the people are. It's awfully rare to pass anyone - whether they're out running or walking themselves, or mowing the grass, or just sitting on the porch - that doesn't smile and wave.

It makes me happy to recall that feeling of being welcomed, which convinced me moving to Black Mountain was the right thing to do years ago.

I have also learned a few new lessons about the town since starting my now almost-daily routine. I've discovered that some of the hills are no joke, but most importantly I'm seeing the town at eye level.

And while I can't say for sure whether I will win or lose this competition against my friends this month, I can say that I feel great. And the charm of Black Mountain has played a meaningful role in that.