Work, home and family hadn’t left Denise Southerland a lot of time to pursue an activity she used to love — running.
But “once my second child turned 1, I had the intense urge to burst out of this baby bubble I had found myself in,” the Black Mountain resident said. She started slowly and worked up to three runs a week. She ran a few races and, looking for a goal to help her maintain her new level of balance, she signed up for this weekend’s Black Mountain Marathon.
“I knew I was going to need more support with an actual training plan, and more importantly, running mates,” Southerland said. And along came a group of women called the Hardcore Runners.
Athletes running this weekend’s Black Mountain Marathon (26.2 miles) or Mount Mitchell Challenge (a 40-mile race to the top of Mount Mitchell and back) followed innumerable training regimes to get them ready for the races. Many logged thousands of hours training alone. Many traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to get to Black Mountain for the weekend.
The hometown Hardcore Runners took neither route. The crew, all from the Black Mountain area, trained on portions of the marathon course. And it ran together, either as a group or a collection of its members. Meeting often for runs, the women inspired and cajoled each other across the miles in preparation for the weekend’s races.
Several of the women emailed their experiences of training together to The Black Mountain News. The newspaper stitched their stories together along common themes.
Karen Tressler: I have lived in Black Mountain since 2004, and every year I have seen those runners coming back down the mountain literally running right past my house. Every year I have thought, “some day I would like to do that.”
Min Beals: I have grown up in this town and marveled at this race and its runners for years.
Annie Singletary: Our town comes out to support in so many ways.
Kriste Little: When I ran (the marathon) back in 2012, I only knew one other person running it. Now, it has so many locals running it that it’s become a group training affair.
Denise Southerland: Some of these ladies (in the group) I personally knew. Some I had seen around town, and others I had never met or seen before. Like myself, there are some first-timers who are running the marathon.
Deanna Buchanan: We have a group message together, and we all talk about how many miles we need to run each week and what days we will be training on the Black Mountain Marathon course. We may go at different times and run at different paces, but it is reassuring to know that others are on the course on the same day.
Annie Singletary: We pretty much figure life out together as we trudge up that mountain.
Karen Tressler: The running group has been there for me 100 percent with their encouragement, knowledge of the terrain and various technical questions. They even saved me last Friday when I needed directions about 5 miles deep in the woods (thank God for cell phone service).
Min Beals: It has been so wonderful to see these women all striving to reach a goal and pushing themselves, holding us accountable to each other and in turn to ourselves. Misery loves company.
Karen Tressler: I am doing this marathon to show my two daughters that you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter how difficult, if you just do not give up. I am also doing it for myself to get five, six hours of alone time in the woods.
Min Beals: I run because one day I won’t be physically able to do so anymore. And when that day comes is a mystery.
Andrea Menzel: I want to push past my limits in order to achieve a huge milestone in my life while I am able to give it my all. And to inspire my daughter, husband and others around me that setting a challenging goal can be achieved through consistency and the willingness to try.
Karen Tressler: Running for me is like meditation. It is time for quiet reflection and prayer, and there is nothing more inspiring than the views on this trail.
Annie Singletary: You know (with the group) you’ll never be out on a long training run alone. It has become something that I cherish, more than just the running. It’s a community of some pretty amazing, crazy people.
Kriste Little: I chose (this) for my first marathon because it’s in my backyard, and I’ve come back again and again because it’s just one of the coolest events around. The folks running are fun to chat with on the way, there’s always a nice crowd (I think trail running brings out the more laid back runners, not as competitive). The aid stations are always stocked with everything you need and lots of encouraging volunteers. And the after-race and after-party are just a blast. They put a lot into this race!
Deanna Buchanan: This race is a life-changing experience because you have to be mentally and physically ready to run in any weather conditions. It’s more mental than physical. One year it was just lots of water and mud from a previous snow melt. Last year, there was snow and ice on the course. This year there will definitely be some snow and ice left from (Winter Storm) Jonas.
Kriste Little: For me, it’s just so cool to encourage a runner to run their first marathon. After you talk them into doing this crazy thing, I love being out there on the trail with them encouraging them, giving them motivation talks when they think they just can’t do it. I really love encouraging people to push themselves to do something they thought they could never do.
Denise Southerland: These ladies have been extremely supportive, knowledgeable and all around amazing. I’ve learned about what training plan to use, clothes to wear, amount of water supply and snacks to bring.
Deanna Buchanan: This group of ladies have become lifelong friends just through running and training for this race.
Kriste Little: I’ve formed some of my best friendships on the trail, ones I would have never had, had I not run the Black Mountain Marathon.
Karen Tressler: This running group would not let me give up, even when I didn’t believe I could do it. That is priceless.