Runners get ready to ‘Rock The Quarry’

Fred McCormick

Descending into a pit surrounded by tiered quarry walls, runners in Saturday’s Rock The Quarry 5K may be inclined to forget a few things.

Most probably won’t remember that they’re running one of the few races in the country that takes place in an active quarry. Many will not know how much the race has grown during its eight years or the impact it has on local charities.

But the runners - nearly 300 are expected - will no doubt be impressed by the expansive views of the Swannanoa Valley while running through Grove Stone & Sand. The vista are a big part of what makes the race so special.

Jon Neumann works for Hedrick Industries, the company that owns Grove Stone & Sand. He has been the race director for Rock The Quarry for the past five years.

In its earliest days, the race was a relatively small event.

Support from the surrounding community has contributed significantly to the event’s increased popularity, Neumann said. A local running group known as “The Posse” began running the course at Grove Stone last year when Neumann began organizing practice runs leading up to Rock The Quarry. The group has been instrumental in spreading the word about the race.

. “They’re big supporters and they really try to promote us,” Neumann said. The practice runs themselves have also led to increased visibility for the race. “We had almost 70 runners show up one night for a practice run,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Kaitlyn Hinten was among those running the course during the final practice run before the race. She learned about Rock The Quarry after she began running with The Posse.

“I just decided to come running with them to see what it was like, and it’s really cool,” she said. “So after running a few of the practices, I decided I’d run the 5K.”

Hinten, who typically races in road races, is drawn to the unique opportunity to run through a quarry.

“This is a little different than what I typically run,” she said. “It’s a little hilly at the beginning, but it’s not too technical. It will be fun for people of all skill levels.”

Another dose of publicity for Grove Stone occurred in late August when it served as the site of Western North Carolina’s first Reebok Spartan Race. The Asheville Super brought thousands of runners and spectators to the quarry.

“I know a lot of people learned about Rock The Quarry after hearing about the Spartan Race,” Neumann said. “The chance for us to host an event like that was really special.”

The exposure from the Asheville Super is just one reason why Neumannn expects more runners on Saturday than the nearly 200 who showed up for last year’s race. “I would really like to see us bring in about 300 this year,” he said.

True to its roots as a fundraiser, Rock The Quarry continues to support the Black Mountain Home for Children. Last year’s race raised $20,000 for the local nonprofit.

“They (the home) have been our longtime partner and neighbor,” Neumann said. “And we’ve really built our relationship with them over the past eight years. It is important that you reach out to your neighbors.”

Another partner that Neumann brought into the mix is Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville. Neumann has served on the museum’s board for nearly five years and is the current chair.

“They (Colburn) really need some support right now because of some of the changes in Pack Place,” he said. “They have a capital campaign going on to help them move out of Pack Place into a new facility that will be highly visible. It’s really going to change the museum completely. This money will go toward that capital campaign, so it’s very important.”

Neumann adds that the money raised for the two nonprofits would not be possible without the race’s presenting sponsor, Carolina CAT.

“Their contributions to this race have been huge,” he said.

Rock The Quarry, which begins at 9:30 a.m., will be preceded by the Kids Fun Run at 9:15 a.m. Registration information is at Race day registration is possible.