UPDATE: Because of soggy ground, the Black Mountain Monster has been moved to June 16, organizers said May 31.
They say love conquers all. But is it a match for a monster in the woods?
A local married couple will find out Saturday, June 2 when the Black Mountain Monster returns to town for the 10th year.
The name "monster" is figurative, but the annual ultramarathon could accurately be described as the stuff of nightmares. It places runners on the wooded trails that snake through the Montreat College's Black Mountain campus built around the historic In-the-Oaks estate. Many runners will have camped the night before in the "tent city" near the starting line.
More than 200 runners will hit those trails at 10 a.m. to run the 3.1-mile loop for six, 12 or 24 hours. Julia Moore, who will be running the six-hour race with her husband Sam, has never run that long in her life. However, she had a great view of it last year.
"We could see part of the route from Sam's office window last year," Julia said. "That was part of the appeal of it."
Julia, a teacher at W.D. Williams in Swannanoa, started running three years ago with the Fit Girls Running Club. She immediately fell in love with sport. Last fall, she switched from roads to trails and found a willing partner in Sam, her husband of 30 years.
Sam started running last July, and "it brought my wife and I much closer," he said. "After raising two kids into adulthood, we have an activity to share."
Sam had an interest in the Monster, Julia said, so she pushed him to sign up with her.
"I knew he could do it," she said. "Because Sam can do all these crazy things."
With the goal of running the six-hour race, the Moores went about preparing in their own ways. Sam proved what kinds of "crazy things" he was capable of when he ran the Seven Sisters loop around Montreat.
"Fifteen miles, 4,000 feet of climbing in just over four hours," he said with a smile. "In the pouring rain."
That route, which he ran just two weeks before the Monster, was when he knew he would be able to endure six straight hours on the race's flat course.
Julia went about getting ready for the race in a different, slightly more practical, way.
"To me it's not about miles, it's just about time on my feet," she said. "So if I go out for a run, I say 'OK, I'm going to be on my feet for three hours.'"
Over spring break Julia ran over 30 miles in five days, "that was the most I've ever done," she said.
On May 19, Julia and friends met Black Mountain native Kenny Capps on the Blue Ridge Parkway and walked with him for 20 miles on his Throwing Bones for a Cure Run.
"When I did that long walk with Kenny, my legs didn't get tired," she said. "That was huge for me to stay on my feet for that long."
Her goal in the Monster is to do seven laps around the course, almost 22 miles. She'll spend some of that time with Sam, and the two are excited to face the trails together.
"I'm looking forward to the experience," Sam said. "To me it's not a race. I'm just excited to be out there on the course with a bunch of friends."
When Sam and Julia finish up their run at 4 p.m. and are enjoying live music in tent city, another 130-plus runners will still be on the trails. About 80 runners will run for 12 hours, and at least 50 more are brave enough to try to stay out there until 10 a.m. Sunday morning - a full 24 hours.
"To me it will be amazing to watch people out there running for that long," Julia said. Sam agreed.
"I'm really planning on just taking in the whole experience," he said. "It's a really cool event, and I'm just excited to be there for it."
As the Moores look forward to staring down the Monster together, they are already thinking about their next race, which they will run together.
"I'm running the Lookout to Lookout to Lookout this fall," Julia said of the 10-mile race from Lookout Brewing Co. in Black Mountain to the top of Lookout Mountain and back. "That will be my first time, but I know the trails up there. I'm going to train in the summer."
One day Sam "would like to run a marathon," he said, but for now he has his sights set on joining his wife when she takes on the Lookout race in the fall.
"It's awesome that we have this hobby we can share together," Sam said.