‘Monster’ returns to haunt In-the-Oaks

Fred McCormick

Every October Terry Estates provides the backdrop for the Historic Haunted House Tour of In-the-Oaks, where the Roaring ’20s come alive through costumes and period-style seances.

Whether people believe in ghosts or not, they will certainly find a monster on Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22 on the nearly four miles of trails that snake through the woods on the mansion’s west side.

For the eighth year, the Black Mountain Monster will give ultra-marathon runners the chance to see how far they can run in six, 12 or 24 hours. Greg Little, who is running the race for the first time this year, hopes that distance is 100 miles.

“One hundred miles is always something that I’ve dreamed of doing,” he said. “It’s something that I look at as sort of an ultimate goal for my ultimate running résumé.”

Little’s list of accomplishments in ultra-marathon running includes the Mount Mitchell Challenge and the Table Rock Ultra 50K. He would like to add a belt buckle, which is traditionally given to those who run 100 miles, to the string of exploits.

“Unlike most of the bigger 100-mile races that run from point to point, this race brings it down the core element of you against the terrain,” he said. “It sets you up for success if you really want it.”

Mike Guyer’s Black Mountain-based company Relentless Running Events is directing the race for the first time this year.

“We have 160 registered runners this year,” Guyer said. “And those are split pretty evenly between the three races. The format is simple - you just run as far as you can in six, 12 or 24 hours.”

The atmosphere of the race is what really makes the Monster unique, according to Guyer.

“We’ve got three musical acts lined up that will perform through the evening on Saturday,” he said. “Paco Shipp and James Hammel will be playing, and a band called the Oak Twins will play that evening.”

The center of the race will be a collection of tents near the high ropes course on the Montreat College Black Mountain campus, where spectators will gather to cheer on the runners.

“People will start to show up on Friday evening or early Saturday morning,” Guyer said. “You’ll see people setting up tents and getting their gear together on Saturday morning. And at 10 a.m., the race starts.”

By sundown Ed McDaniel will be done running his first Monster. The Black Mountain resident has a retinal degenerative disease that drastically decreases his field of vision. as part of his campaign to end blindness, he is running the six-mile race to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

“This isn’t a race that I would normally sign up for,” he said. “But my friend Mike Guyer knew about my goal of running 1,200 miles this year to try to raise $1,200 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, so he very generously donated my race registration.”

The race will be McDaniel’s first attempt at an ultra-marathon. But his 30-year history in the sport has netted him successful runs in the Black Mountain Marathon and the (former) Ridge to Bridge in held in Burke County.

“The distance I generally prefer is the the half marathon,” he said. “This is a bit of a stretch for me. But I have a lot of friends running in this race, so it will be run to get out there with them and see what I can do.”

One of McDaniel’s friends that will be on the trail is Little, who like his fellow runner is not exactly sure what to expect in the race.

“I have a little bit of a strategy, but with ultras you never really know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll start a race and feel really good and then halfway through things just kind of fall apart.”

It is that type of drama that Guyer hopes will bring people to the course to watch this year’s Monster.

“We encourage people to watch the race,” he said. “I’ll be collecting pet food for Brother Wolf at the race and human food to donate to the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry.” The race will also make a donation to the Montreat College Cross Country Camp.”