A quick glance at the results from the 2015 Asheville Kiwanis Biltmore Classic 15K reveals someone familiar to residents throughout the Swannanoa Valley. Finishing first in the 64-69 age group is bib number 859, worn by the mayor of Black Mountain, Michael Sobol.
Sobol’s finish in the 9.3-mile race, in which he maintained a pace of 9:05 per mile, was the most recent in an impressive string of performances for Sobol, who placed second in his age group in the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge in April. He also finished 11th in the 65-69-year-old age group in the popular Cooper River Bridge 10K in late March.
Sobol started running on the track team at Owen High School, as a way to stay in shape for football season. He has been motivated to continue the practice as a way to stay healthy.
“It keeps me in shape,” he said. “My father had a heart attack at 47 and died at 57. And I like living.
“It just makes you feel better,” he continued. “There have been very few times that I have ever come back from a run and not felt better.”
Though he ran regularly, two to three times a week, Sobol had never run a race - until he turned 60. He participated in the Cooper River 10K for the first time that year and has since participated in several races in the area.
Sobol plans to participate in the upcoming Race to the Taps, a 4-mile race at Pisgah Brewing Company scheduled for June 12. While he mostly enjoys the chance to get out and run, he definitely has a competitive side.
“It is a holdover from football days and playing rugby in England and Chapel Hill,” he said. “When I’m playing or running, I’m out there to win and do the best I can.”
The mayor, elected to office in 2013, will look to continue his successful streak of race-day performances when he runs the 10K portion of the Asheville Half Marathon and 10K in early June.
Sobol wants to be a positive influence on others in the community. But he is already impressed with the number of people in town dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle.
“When you look over at Cheshire, and you look at the age of the people that are over there, I think it is amazing how many people that you see there that are my age or older continue to keep in shape,” he said. “This helps with the overall health in our community.”
While he enjoys his longtime hobby, and the benefits that come along with it, Sobol remains content with the sticking to 10Ks and 15Ks.
“People have asked me why I don’t try the Mount Mitchell Challenge,” he said. “When they ask me that question I have a very simple answer: ‘I still have two brain cells that are connected.’”