We want to give you good news on race day!. After having to shorten the Challenge twice in its 25 year history, due to Mount Mitchell park access issues on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we have strategized a way to give good news, rather than bad, on race day. All runners will sign up for the Marathon and if the Summit is available and covered with aid stations on race day, the first 250 runners that want to go to the summit for the full Challenge, and have reached the Parkway Marathon turnaround within the cut-off time, will become Challenge racers and will have the option to continue to the Summit. Summit racers will continue to be allowed to head up until the 250 racer capacity is reached or the cut-off time of 10AM has passed. Once one of those two thresholds has been reached, subsequent runners reaching the Parkway turnaround will continue normally as Marathon finishers.
In a typical year, there are less than 250 runners that reach the Parkway within the cutoff time, so this solution should give anyone who is capable, the chance for a Summit, if it is available to us.
We feel this is a better solution that having to deny folks the chance of a Summit because of a closure at the last minute.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does registration open? September 1st
Open entries are accepted until the 500 runner cap is reached.
I've heard that we might not be able to hit the Summit if it snows? We work closely with multiple local, state and federal agencies to ensure your safety and provide the best race experience possible. In order to access the Mount Mitchell State Park with our aid station crews and volunteers, we must first be allowed vehicular access via the Blue Ridge Parkway. If that is not possible, we will work with authorities to provide alternative course options that still ensure a challenging day on the trail!
Is this a Marathon or an Ultra? Every runner registers for the Marathon. The first 250 runners to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway turnaround, have the option to continue to the Summit.
What's the cutoff time for the Summit? Everyone starts at 7am and has until 10AM to cover the ~15 miles to the Parkway, and a shot at the Summit.
I'm registered and can't run, what are my options? We have a drop date of January 1st for deferrals or refunds. If you drop before this date, you can defer your full entry to the following year OR get a refund minus $30. After the 1/1 date we unfortunately have no refunds or deferrals.
Is there a map of the course? Yes, we do have a map. it is posted on this site. We have changed the course within the State Park over the years however. Currently we run the Old Mitchel Trail from Stepps Gap to the Summit and then descend via State Rd 128. Some interactive maps are found here.
Is there a place for me to drop gear along the course? No. We have a "pack in / pack out" rule. Everything you start with, you need to finish with.
How much of the course is trail? 3 first and final 3 miles are paved. From mile 3 on, the course is a mix of single track trail and rough gravel. The section to the summit is a combination of pavement and trail (when the trail access is possible).
How many aid stations? 10 in the Challenge and 6 in the Marathon. They will have water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas, salty & sweet snacks. Some also have hot soup.
The Challenge is this: Begin at dawn in Black Mountain, the quaint "front porch of Western North Carolina", and follow trails to the "rooftop" of Western North Carolina, the 6,684' summit of Mount Mitchell - eastern America's highest point - then return to the start/finish area! With a starting altitude of 2,360', the elevation gain for this 40-mile run will be 4,324' - in the first 20 miles!
Race founders Wendell Begley of Black Mountain Savings and Trent Thomas from Black Dome Mountain Sports saw a need for this kind of event for both the elite athlete and the weekend warrior. Their goal was to design a race that was attainable physically while offering the opportunity to test oneself against the often-uncooperative forces of nature!
The Marathon runners start side-by-side with the Challengers and duplicate their course to the Black Mountain Gap overlook on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway. Here, at an elevation of 5,340' and with an extraordinary view of Mount Mitchell as a backdrop, Marathoners will turn and retrace their course to the Start/Finish area in Black Mountain.
Event's current local time: 12:30 AM ET