There aren’t too many road races in Western North Carolina with the storied history of the Maggie Valley Moonlight Race, sponsored this year by Mission Health System. Nor will you find many, like this one, that take place at night.
Which is exactly why Sean Grady of Cherokee is so inclined to run the upcoming 8K on Aug. 27. He wants to run this race even though he’s preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 in Arlington, Va., and despite his careful efforts otherwise to adhere to a peak-at-the-perfect-moment training regimen.
And Grady’s marathon training plan certainly does not call for a 4.8-mile road race this coming weekend.
But that’s the allure of the Maggie Valley Moonlight Race, which in its heyday attracted more than 2,300 people to this Haywood County community. The race has been subject to fits and starts over the last decade — this is the first time in a couple of years it’s been held — but the reputation of the nighttime run is legendary.
“We want to bring back some of the traditions of the race,” said Greg Duff of Glory Hound Events in Asheville, who is organizing this 30th version of the Moonlight Race.
That includes inviting regional running clubs to the run, one of the great traditions Duff wants back. Clubs would have “tailgate” parties, swap meets and meetings for members, and generally good times were had by all.
Grady and wife, Gerri, both belong to Cherokee Runners, a club on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. While Sean Grady is still vacillating a bit about whether to run the race as a tempo run (an outing done at a steady effort level, these runs are generally just a little slower than a runner’s average 10K race pace, helping to develop anaerobic or lactate thresholds), his wife is definitely participating, as are others with the Cherokee running club.
They’ll find an excellent course with plenty of running support, said Duff. The rectangular course takes runners 1.2 miles up the valley to Ghost Town, then 2.4 miles in the opposite direction, before returning them 1.2 miles to the finish line back at the fairgrounds.
The race gets under way at 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $30, with registration/packet pickup on Friday, Aug. 26 from 3-6 p.m. at the Maggie Valley Fairgrounds and from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at the fairgrounds.
Time: Race starts at 8:30 p.m.
Awards: 10 p.m. at the fairgrounds stage.
Post race: Budweiser of Asheville is a race sponsor, and all runners, 21 years and older, will be able to receive one beer after the race. Bottled water will also be available at the finish line and food tent.
The Maggie Valley Moonlight Race will return in 2011, once again enticing runners from near and far to lace up their sneakers in the dark.
“After a two-year absence, Glory Hound Events is proud to bring back this fixture of the Western North Carolina running scene,” said Greg Duff, race organizer. “Runners should be pleased to know that we are planning to restore some of the traditions of the past, as well as incorporate some modern aspects for the 30th running.”
Hosted by the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Moonlight Race will be held Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. Those participating in the 8K race will gather at the Maggie Valley Fairgrounds for the race start and run the same course as was used in 2008, Duff said. The course takes runners 1.2 miles up the valley to Ghost Town, then 2.4 miles in the opposite direction, before returning them 1.2 miles to the finish line back at the fairgrounds.
“The Maggie Valley Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau is extremely pleased to bring back the Moonlight Race in August 2011 for its 30th year,” said Teresa Smith, Chamber president. “Runners from all over the world have flocked to the valley throughout the years to participate in the Moonlight Race, and the businesses are happy to have the boost to the local economy that participants provide.”
The first Maggie Valley Moonlight Race was held on Aug. 4, 1979, with more than 830 participants. From its start the nighttime race was popular with elite and amateur runners alike, some of whom traveled great distances and from other continents to participate. In its early years, the Moonlight Race’s sizable winner’s purse attracted internationally-recognized runners from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Kenya. While prize money is no longer available, Moonlight runners continue to be challenged by the difficulty of this course, Duff said.
“The valley appears to offer a relatively flat course, but the climb toward the Ghost Town parking lot is a tough one,” said Duff.
“The town of Maggie Valley is excited to be working with Greg Duff of Glory Hound Events to promote the 30th running of the Moonlight Race,” said Audrey Hager, Maggie Valley’s director of special events and festivals.
Just as was the case in 1979, town officials hope the return of the Moonlight Race will bring visitors in close contact with Maggie Valley’s many businesses and hotels rooms. “We believe this important event will bring economic stimulus to the businesses and put Maggie Valley back on the map,” said Hager.
“We are grateful to the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce and the town of Maggie Valley for their complete support of this endeavor,” said Duff. “We look forward to once again seeing hundreds of people running in the valley this August.”
Major sponsors for the returning Moonlight Race to date include Mission Health Systems and The Smoky Mountain News. Registration for the event will open on Feb. 1, 2011. All event information, including a link to online registration, is being updated as it becomes available at www.maggievalleymoonlightrun.com.