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It is the race that turned Tarrant, six miles north of Birmingham, into a destination. And it is all for a good cause—local schools. Join runners from across the country for the 4th Annual Quarry Crusher Run on Saturday, April 27, 8 am, at Vulcan Material Company’s Dolcito quarry. Register today, or donate to the cause.
What Is the Quarry Crusher Run?
Racing through the rocky cliffs of a working quarry is one of the most unique running challenges you can face. Some love it so much they attend all nine annual events across eight states in the Vulcan Materials Company Quarry Crusher Run Series.
Of all the races, the most challenging, many believe, is the 4-mile trek through Dolcito quarry. It touts a 700-foot elevation change and one of the most stunning views of downtown Birmingham you can find. Best of all, your $40-$50 registration fee supports Tarrant City Schools.
Dollars Where They Count
Tarrant City Schools provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students in need, but that doesn’t cover weekends. Quarry Crusher dollars help fund the Food Bank of Central Alabama’s Weekend Backpack program, which ensures Tarrant students have food on days they are not in school.
“There is food insecurity in our community, so this program really helps with that shortfall,” said Dr. Shelly Mize, superintendent of Tarrant City Schools.
Race funds also go toward college scholarships for Tarrant high school seniors and a quarterly recognition program for teachers who have gone above and beyond. Then, there are the mini grants—usually awarded twice a year—which might pay for a class set of novels or new seating designed to make the classroom more engaging.
Additionally, schools can submit requests for other needs. This year, the fund paid for outdoor emergency lights, which alert students and teachers who are outside if they need to come inside to shelter.
When you participate in the Dolcito Quarry Crusher Run, you’ll likely see Randy Jones in his golf cart keeping an eye on runners’ safety.
Jones is Area Operations Manager for Central Alabama at Vulcan Materials, as well as the company’s biggest behind-the-scenes champion of the local Quarry Crusher Run. But his ties to Tarrant City Schools and Superintendent Mize go back some 15 years.
Mize, who was then principal at Tarrant Elementary, remembers Jones, then based at the Dolcito quarry, hosting honor roll pizza parties and generally supporting the school any way he could through his role at Vulcan.
“We have just always had a really close working relationship, and Randy has always been of the mindset to give back.” – Mize
Just a few years ago, Jones and Vulcan Materials were instrumental in raising funds to send a group of high school students to Cape Canaveral in Florida. The trip was a send-off celebration for launching a class project on protein crystallization into space as part of a UAB-NASA collaboration.
Although circumstances caused them to miss the rocket launch, the Tarrant students got to meet astronauts and go through a mini version of space training.
The Quarry Crusher Comes to Tarrant
The Quarry Crusher Run began in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2012. Long-time Vulcan employee Bob Johnson founded the event, which connects employees to the community and gives the public a rare opportunity to see the quarry.
After four years, Vulcan Materials looked to expand the successful event. About the same time, Ben Goldman, city lawyer of Tarrant and president of the Tarrant Pinson Valley Chamber of Commerce, had a vision of his own. He wanted to build upon the chamber’s philanthropy for the schools with an event that would make Tarrant a destination.
“I put a challenge out to the chamber members that we ought to find ways to bring the greater Birmingham community into Tarrant to see what we have to offer, and to showcase our community.” – Goldman
Expanding the Quarry Crusher Run to the Dolcito quarry in Tarrant was the natural answer to both.
Over at Vulcan Materials, Jones stepped up to the plate. As a longtime member of the chamber, he worked with the chamber and city officials to get the event off the ground.
Since its first year in 2016, the Quarry Crusher Run at Dolcito has grown quickly. Together, the first two events raised $15,000 for Tarrant City Schools. In 2018, the race attracted more than 300 registered runners and raised $20,000.
After Tarrant, the Vulcan Materials Company Quarry Crusher Run Series grew to nine total quarry locations, including Atlanta, San Antonio, San Diego and Nashville. Each event supports its own local community partner.
Because the series attracts a dedicated following of runners who attend every Quarry Crusher Run around the country, that means the race has not only made Tarrant a destination for greater Birmingham, it has made it a destination nationwide.
What to Expect on the Trail
The Dolcito Quarry Crusher Run is unique because it begins at the quarry’s midpoint, with runners and walkers trekking to the top to start. That takes you to your first pay off (get your camera ready).
“The view of downtown Birmingham is my favorite. That alone is worth the price of admission.” – Ben Goldman
Next comes the descent, dropping 700 feet in elevation into the quarry’s depths. Then you turn around and come back up, facing an average 10-percent uphill incline. When you return to the “pop out point” halfway up, you’re done. That is unless you want to do it again. That’s called a Double Crusher.
“It is the greatest sense of accomplishment. I’ve done 5K’s before, but there is nothing like this one,” Superintendent Mize said.
If you’re hesitant about participating in the Quarry Crusher Run, take it from Mize. The first year, she manned a lemonade and watermelon tent for the event, but she felt guilty standing on the sidelines. So the next year, she participated with the simple goal of finishing before Judy Webster, a Vulcan retiree in her seventies. She did. Last year, she competed again and shaved 19 minutes off her time.