A single runner can grow in his sport, yet remains anonymous to a city, much the same way the Chattanooga Track Club (CTC) has been able to grow over the past 45 years, unassuming and humble.
Started in 1970 by just a handful of hardcore runners passionate about their sport (think old-school sweatbands and men in short shorts), the Chattanooga Track Club’s presence has now firmly cemented a large community of runners in the Scenic City. The club now puts on 20 races every year, weekly group runs, marathon training programs, and monthly wellness events—all with mostly volunteer board members who have regular day jobs.
The club manager, Stacey Malecky, said that most of the board members spend nearly as many hours (unpaid) on CTC work as their normal jobs. In addition to the CTC’s numerous events and activities, the club also puts out its own quarterly publication, Jogging Around. Flip through the pages and you’ll be amazed by the level of devotion and energy the club brings to the running community here.
“Runners are introverted by nature,” Malecky says, explaining her first impression of the club’s weekly group runs. But she went on to say that as soon as she got to know a few members, they were some of the friendliest people she’s ever met. After seeing a photo from this year’s Market Street Mile where several CTC guys donned red prom dresses for the race to show their support for the American Heart Association, I could see her point.
The races organized by the Chattanooga Track Club, which now has more than 600 members, vary in distances covered and severity. Runners looking for an intermediate distance might keep an eye out for the Chickamauga Chase , a 15K and 5K run that celebrated its 47th anniversary this past April, making it the city’s oldest road race. If free pie is your thing (yes, free pie ) then watch out for this year’s Signal Mountain Pie run in October, where the entry fee includes pie at the end of the 10K. The club also hosts the Wauhatchie Trail Run , in which registered participants bring a “re-gift” from home to contribute to the “white elephant” style prize table.
While membership to the club does come with certain benefits, it is not a necessity to meet some Chattanooga runners. Malecky says all weekly group runs are open to non-members who might want to run with others, or just hop along for half the route. Along with its desire to bring running and fitness to the area, the CTC likes to boast about the diversity of its runners, too; all levels of experience and paces welcome. Check out the clubs website for details on meet-up times and places.
For people looking to get started in the sport, Malecky recommended checking out the serene paths of the Chickamauga Battlefield. Who knows, you could be lured into signing up for the Battlefield Marathon by the scenic rolling hills and open spaces. For folks trying to get out after work, do some laps around the riverwalk. There’s three different ice cream shops across the bridge, which is incentive enough to brave the summer heat. You might catch a glimpse of a CTC group run while you’re at it. And you may even be tempted to become a member yourself.