Downhill @ Dawn Half Marathon

Saturday, May 26, 2018 • Ridgecrest, NC • Course Map

Paved mountain roads and wide gravel trails that wind through the majestic wooded forests of North Carolina’s Black Mountain area, which lies near the southern edge of the 510,000-acre Pisgah National Forest, are the setting for this annual late spring/early summer race.


It’s the Downhill @ Dawn Half Marathon, a race hosted by both the Nashville Striders running club and the Ridgecrest Conference Center, a Christian retreat here in western North Carolina.

The point-to-point race starts quite literally as dawn is rising over the North Carolina mountains, at 6:01 AM to be exact, and takes runners from the starting line at the Ridgecrest Conference Center campus, between the center’s Royal Gorge Apartments and its Maple Hotel.

From there, runners follow the first few miles of the race out onto paved roads that wind between Ridgecrest and the nearby town of Black Mountain a few miles to the west, following old Highway 70 on a slight downhill for the first two miles.

Runners will cross train tracks in the early going, and can expect to hear train whistles blowing through as these are active railroads, in which case they’ll need to wait a few minutes for the train to pass. Miles 3 and 4 feature an uphill climb back to the Ridgecrest campus, after which runners then begin the next several miles through the forest roads and gravel trails, which unfold along a gradual downhill slope for the stretch through miles 5 through 9.

This stretch of the race is perhaps its most naturally beautiful, as runners make their way along the winding Highway 70 through the mountains, passing by Old Geyser Park as well as mountain streams and rivers alongside the roads and trails heading downward from Old Fort Mountain, which changes from paved to gravel trails through this stretch.

Don’t be surprised if you even hear cowbells in the distance or close by the race course, as mountain goats wearing the bells are common sight through these hills.

The highways near Black Mountain, North Carolina, just outside Ridgecrest. (Photo by Sakura Sunagawa/flickr)

The highways near Black Mountain, North Carolina, just outside Ridgecrest. (Photo by Sakura Sunagawa/flickr)

The route changes back from gravel to paved roads as Highway 70 nears the intersection with Mill Creek Road, and then takes runners in for the last few miles into the town of Old Fort, where runners finish the race at the Old Fort Baptist Church on East Main Street, and where shuttles will be waiting to bring runners back to the Ridgecrest campus.

In keeping with the theme of the day, the race begins with a prayer at the starting line, and is followed by sessions on faith and testimony after the race.

Race Weather & Climate

Located in western North Carolina about 18 miles west of Asheville, within a day’s drive of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the west and the Pisgah National Forest to the north, Ridgecrest typically experiences some of its mildest weather of the year in late May, which has brought record temperatures here as low as 26°F (in 1989) and as high as 90°F (in 1977).

On race day (May 26), the average low is 51°F and the average high is 75°F.

Past Results

Course Map

See the race route map for the Downhill @ Dawn Half Marathon here.

Starting Time

6:01 AM

Fees

  • $60 – $80 for the half marathon
  • $25 – $30 for the 5k

Registration

Registration for this event will open in November. To reserve your spot in the late spring/early summer 2018 running of the Downhill @ Dawn Half Marathon, visit the event website for the latest updates.

Official Race Website

ridgecrestconferencecenter.orgFacebook fan page

Facebook Conversations

Ever run in the Downhill @ Dawn Half Marathon? Share your impressions here, or post your review in the Comments below.

See more races in: May, North Carolina

1 comment… add one
  • Terrell Johnson December 12, 2014, 9:22 am

    In the conversion to the new site design, I didn’t want to lose these comments from readers who’ve run the race before. Here they are:

    From Pam Burrus, in 2011: “This was my first half marathon (and my friends too) and it was AMAZING. The race course was BEAUTIFUL and such a great way to enjoy the run. Met some of the nicest folks along the way – even met a girl who ran with me about 4 miles! So much fun and can’t wait to do it again next year!”

    From Ann Jenkins, in 2011: “This was one of the most fun and organized races I have competed in over the last ten years of racing. Kudos to Ron Pratt for doing such a great job and directing such a “hidden treasure’ in our North Carolina mountains! I (and more friends) will be back for next year’s race.”

    From John I. Alexander, in 2013: “Wonderful running experience, very well organized, very friendly, good race for a personal best — you can fly down the hills!”

    Reply

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