With breathtaking views, meticulously preserved forests, and activities for everyone among the 8,000 acres of property surrounding the Biltmore Estate, it’s clear that “america’s largest backyard” is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n addition to offering fly fishing excursions, guided hiking and biking tours and a wide range of other activities, Biltmore is quickly gaining a reputation for being a near-perfect destination for runners looking to head out on the seemingly endless number of trails and carriage roads found on the property.
That reputation was solidified all the more last year when Biltmore played host to the inaugural Asheville Marathon, an event that was hailed as being widely successful, even though temperatures hovered near 20 degrees throughout the blustery March day that brought additional hardships to the runners in the form of a frigid wind. Despite the bitter conditions, the event drew high praise from participants and this year’s event, scheduled for March 16, is on pace to again sell out well ahead of race day.
This year, race organizer Daphne Kirkwood hopes the weather will provide more favorable conditions that can shine a light on just how great a destination the Biltmore Estate is for a marathon.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Meeting her today, it would be easy to assume that Kirkwood has always had an affinity for racing and running, but that isn’t the case.
Kirkwood started running around 10 years ago and chose a 5K for her first official event. While she completed the event, she didn’t meet all of her goals so she kept training and soon found her stride. At the next event, another 5K, Kirkwood picked up an award in her age group. “After that I just got hooked on running,” she said.
Over the course of the next few years, Kirkwood recalls becoming enamored with not only the sport of running, but the lifestyle and culture that surrounded it. “I just totally immersed myself in the whole running world,” she said. “I loved the whole race scene, so I started going to a lot of races and it seemed like at the events I went to there were times when I had ideas of things that would make the races better, more fun or more organized.”
It was then that a light bulb went off and Kirkwood realized she had a true interest in hosting her own events. But the events she envisioned would be slightly different than the events she’d attended, she recalled. She wanted to host what she refers to as boutique style events, small races with limited availability that cater to the individual’s experience as opposed to hosting as many people as possible.
With 20 years of destination-centered hospitality experience, Kirkwood said she realized the importance of client-centered event productions, focusing on the details, and making an event an enjoyable and memorable experience. She kept the overall experience as a focus when she was asked by Open Doors of Asheville to design and direct an off-road duathlon that consisted of a 2.5-mile run through grassy fields and forest service roads, a 12-mile off-road bike course, followed by another 2.5-mile trail run.
Dig the Du, the name of the duathlon, was wildly successful and since then Kirkwood hasn’t really paused to look back, but instead has consistently added more and more events to her roster at her event racing company, iDaph Events. Last year, Kirkwood and her company hosted over 10 events in Western North Carolina and they are quickly becoming known as one of the top race organizers in the region.
RUNNING AT BILTMORE
From the first time she ran on the Biltmore Estate, Kirkwood said she was instantly in love with the setting, the rolling terrain and the quality of trails and roads for running. Around five years ago when she was an employee of the Biltmore Estate, Kirkwood was instrumental in forming a running group for her fellow employees, which consisted of post-work jaunts around the property. On those runs, Kirkwood quickly came to realize just what a special destination the Biltmore is for those who enjoy running long distances.
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