Kicking Off the Racing Season in Chattanooga

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The Chattanooga Track Club’s Scenic City Half Marathon, 5K and Charity Challenge, on February 28, is the unofficial kick-off to the road racing season. It’s the perfect fitness check-in, whether you’re a road or a trail runner. With an average of 1,500 participants, the race has become a favorite for runners and volunteers alike.

Chattanooga runner, Leslie Taylor, has participated in the event in each of the last three years—every year since she built-up her endurance from the odd treadmill run to a half and then a full marathon. 

“I like Scenic City because the course goes through my favorite parts of downtown—by the river, on the Riverwalk, the North Shore—and because I love to run this time of year,” she says. “It's also fun because it starts and finishes at Finley, and that’s the only time I will ever be on a football field.”

The football field in question is Davenport Field at Finley Stadium, home of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs football, Lady Mocs soccer, and Chattanooga Football Club. From there, the race heads to the river and business district along Riverside Drive and then along the Tennessee River via Amnicola Highway. At the turnaround point the course heads back on the Tennessee Riverwalk for 4 miles, passing marshes, views of the river, and wildlife sanctuaries. The course continues through the historic Bluff Art District and past the Hunter Museum and then crosses the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge to the North Shore district. After passing the local shops and restaurants on Frazier Avenue, runners cross back over the river on Veterans Bridge, past Ross’ Landing and the Tennessee Aquarium towards the finish on the 50 yard line at Finley Stadium.

Courtesy of Chattanooga Track Club

“It’s a tough race because it’s hilly, especially the last four miles which include a two mile climb to the finish,” says Fast Break’s Alan Outlaw. “It’s usually cold and people either love that or it makes them run faster to get done.”

As a running store owner and coach, Outlaw often paces coworkers, friends, or people he’s coaching. Sometimes he even races the event. “The course is great, but that’s not the only reason to run it. People love the charity component as well,” he says.

The charity component—the option to race for one of eight local charities, including but not limited to the Southeast region Special Olympics, the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, several local children’s advocacy and health organizations, and the YMCA—is included with the race entry ($7.50 from half marathon entries, $5 from 5K entries). But runners can make an additional donation as well.

This year the races will also be serving as regional championships.

“The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) selected the half marathon as the Southern Region Half Marathon Championship,” says Race Director Sherilyn Johnson. “The 5K also has the distinction of being selected as the RRCA Tennessee State 5K Championship.”

There’s also a 5K run and walk as an out-and-back course along Riverfront Parkway.

The Walnut Street Bridge primed for racers
The Walnut Street Bridge primed for racers riverharbor

If you don’t care to run or walk, you have other participation options. You can make a donation to help a runner, walker, volunteer, or charity fundraiser reach a specific goal. Or you can volunteer. The charities themselves generally provide half of the race volunteers for the event. In addition to the reward inherent in simply helping people and local organizations, volunteers are treated to coffee and hot chocolate starting at 6:30 a.m. and breakfast from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

If you haven't planned your Saturday morning yet, you still have time to be a part of this scenic challenge.

Online registration is open for all events here until Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 11:59 p.m. If the races haven't sold out, you can register on-site at Finley Stadium on Friday for either race. There is no race-day registration for the half marathon, but if spots are still available for the 5K, registration for that race will be available Saturday morning until it sells out.

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