When faced with a monster, the average person's instinct is to run away.
Ultramarathon runners are far from average, so when the Black Mountain Monster returns to the trails at the White Oaks Estate for its 11th year, June 8-9, hundreds of runners will face it head on. But there will still be plenty of running involved.
The Black Mountain Monster features 6-, 12- and 24-hour races run concurrently on a 3.125-mile course. Participants arrive at the Montreat College Black Mountain campus on Friday night and set up tents in a field on the property. The sold out race, which features more than 250 runners from all over the this year, gets underway from the "tent city" at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
Eighty runners will set out to test their endurance on the trails by running as far as they can in six hours, while 93 participants will run until 10 p.m. Another 82 will attempt to run through the night until the 24-hour race ends at 10 a.m.
The course record in the 24-hour run was set by Rob Johnson in 2017, when he racked up 114.95 miles. More than a dozen runners have eclipsed the 100-mile mark in the history of the Monster.
The unique ultramarathon has grown in popularity every year, according to director Mike Guyer, who has been organizing the event the past four years.
"I think this race has a great vibe," Guyer said of the race, which is free and open to spectators. "If runners want to come and goof off and run a few laps then that's OK, but if runners want to come in and put in a serious effort and chase 120 miles or do something spectacular, that's great too."
Despite its foreboding name, the atmosphere around the Monster is a festive one, featuring live music Saturday afternoon and a front row seat as the runners complete each lap. The course takes participants down tree-covered trails, along creeks, over wooden bridges and through pine forests.
Guyer helps maintain Montreat College's trails in an effort to keep the event on track. Last year he postponed the race due to severe flooding in late May.
"Since then we've been working to keep things dry back there in The Oaks," he said. "So far things are still looking good out there."
Guyer moved the Monster to the second weekend in June, in an effort to avoid the rainy spring season and allow Montreat's athletic season to end.
The 2018 Monster was the first time all three races were swept by women. Natalie Daniel of Mount Holly ran exactly 100 miles in the 24-hour race, while Alexi Gross of Boone posted 56.25 miles in the 12-hour run. Amanda Blair of Waynesville ran 32.25 miles in the six-hour category.
"In a lot of athletic events men and women do not compete directly against one another," Guyer said. "But in this super-long-distance running the playing field is pretty even."