Park Raises Profile with Enduro Races


It’s no secret western North Carolina is a hotbed of outdoor activities and sports. Folks have been flocking to the region for decades to experience the beautiful, yet challenging terrain that lends itself so well to adventure and competition.

In recent years, outdoor event coordinators have discovered Lake James and all it can offer to myriad athletic endeavors. As evidence of its growing popularity, the state park played host to three different endurance races during the month of April.

On separate weekends, athletes gathered at the Paddy’s Creek Area for the inaugural SwimRun Lake James (April 7), the Fonta Flora Half Marathon and 50-kilometer ultramarathon (April 14 and 15) and the annual Lake James International triathlon (April 28).

With 13.5 miles of trail running and nearly 4 miles of swimming, the SwimRun Lake James epitomized the adventurous spirit of the athletes. SwimRun events have their origins in Scandinavia and require participants, in 2-person teams, to transition from running legs to swimming legs of varying distances. The Lake James race featured 26 swim-to-run transitions, the longest of which was a 7.7-mile run and a 1,600-yard swim. Add to that the challenges of wind and waves, off-trail hazards and air and water temps at 55-degrees and you have the makings of an epic achievement for the teams that completed the course. Every athlete had to submit an application with proof of their recent experience in longdistance running and swimming competition. Teams also were required to outfit themselves with wetsuits, compression bandages and emergency whistles. Of the 50 teams that entered the race, 42 completed it. Team Orca, consisting of Marcus Barton and Daniel Kimball, both from South Carolina, won the event.

Race co-director Kristen Jeno declared the SwimRun a “huge success” and plans are already in motion for next year.

“You have a hidden gem at Lake James and have done an incredible job with your facilities and staff,” she said. “We are beyond excited about how everything went.”