High Knob Hellbender 10K
NORTON — Katie Dunn and husband Wally Smith brought a love of running to Wise County when they moved here from Georgia a little more than two years ago.
They had run several “hill climbs” back home and in North Carolina but never been involved in actually organizing one. That all changed earlier this year when an idea that had been rolling around Dunn’s head caught the interest of the Clinch Coalition, which hosts a naturalist rally on High Knob each year. The eighth annual rally will be held this Saturday at Bark Camp Lake.
The winding road up High Knob struck Dunn as a good race course, and the coalition’s interest in partnering on an endeavor “set everything in motion,” she said last week.
The inaugural High Knob Hellbender 10K is coming Oct. 4 and boasts more than a 2,000-foot elevation gain as it climbs from downtown Norton to the High Knob summit.
The name sprang first from the road itself but also has deeper meaning.
“The curves are pretty hell-bending, I guess you could say,” said Dunn, a reporter for this newspaper. But being married to a herpetologist who studies reptiles and amphibians, she also is familiar with the giant salamander called the Hellbender, which grows to two feet long, is known in these parts and is also suffering from decline attributed to water quality.
Adam Jones created the Hellbender race logo and “cemented the whole thing with his design,” she said.
As newcomers to the region, Dunn and Smith “see so much potential here” and view the challenging 6.2-mile run as one way to attract people from outside and give them a reason to visit and stay. She and Smith, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, are now homeowners here.
“One little race isn’t going to solve anything but it can be a start to do something,” Dunn said.
She’s not expecting a huge turnout for the first event, especially given its difficulty. The hill-climbing 10K requires a certain fitness level and may be intimidating to some, she said.
“I want people to have fun with this,” Dunn said, adding that “the fun is going to be the challenge.” The race begins at 9 a.m. behind The Coalfield Progress and ends at the new High Knob tower parking lot. She hopes to have everyone off the course in three hours.
As of Monday, 14 had registered and organizers expect more as race day approaches. They already have one runner registered from Northern Virginia.
Dunn said she and organizers want the community to get behind this and other events and to make visitors feel welcome.
“If we all work together it will ultimately help bring people here,” she said. “Hopefully they will return and bring people back with them.”
Dunn and race organizers will be promoting area attractions and urged any organization or community to contact them if they have something special to promote and they will help spread the word.
In its race announcement, organizers make note of special local interest points:
• The race begins in Norton, the smallest incorporated city in the entire state.
• The elevation is 2,200 feet above sea level at the starting point behind the city’s municipal parking lot and finishes at the 4,200-foot summit where the new observation tower offers a 360-degree view of distant peaks as far away as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and West Virginia.
• Along the way, runners will face “a stout climb” past the city’s Legion Park and pass local landmark Benge’s Rock, named for Chief Benge, a murderous raider who terrorized early settlers.
• They will pass by the entrance of Flag Rock, an impressive overlook of Norton, so named after German immigrant Karl Matuszczyk planted an American flag on a large rock outcrop in the 1920s.
• Total elevation gain is 2,059 feet.
Race Day: Oct. 4, 9 a.m.
• Online registration open. Visit http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=28560.
• If wanting to be guaranteed a race T-shirt,
registration deadline is Sept. 24. Online registration closes at midnight on Oct. 3.
Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
• Pre-registration cost is $25 and $30 if after Sept. 27 or on race day.
• Race is limited to 150 participants.
• For information on the course or any other race logistics, visit www.highknobhellbender.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.