The Chickamauga Chase celebrates its 47th running on April 18, making it the oldest continuously held road race in the Chattanooga area and one of America’s oldest 15k races. The certified 15k course is a circular, clockwise loop around the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The event also offers a 5k, a 1k and, for the second time since 2013, an 8-mile trail run.
Race director of the road events, George Skonberg, a runner himself, has worked hard during his 20 years in charge to foster relationships with volunteers and runners. The result is an amazing partnership and atmosphere of celebration during the event. “There’s a core group of runners and volunteers who make the race a rite of spring,” Skonberg says. “The events sort of kick off the running season, and (runners) know they can count on The Chase to be a quality event that keeps trying to get a little better each year.”
The courses take runners past many of the park's historic sites, monuments, and markers within the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The 5,200-acre park was established in 1890 to commemorate the heroism of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Located just south of Chattanooga near the towns of Ft. Oglethorpe and Chickamauga, Ga., the park is also home to a variety of wildlife-you’re most likely to see deer, birds, and squirrels-as well as hardwoods, pine, and cedars among open fields and creeks.
Skonberg, a Chattanooga Track Club member, approached Wild Trails Executive Director Randy Whorton late in 2012 about adding a trail event to the Chase.
“The explosive growth and popularity of trail running made such an alliance an obvious strategic choice,” Skonberg says. “Since Wild Trails had been building an incredible brand and race series, their expertise and passion made partnering a simple solution.”
The trail event was a success the first year, but permitting issues prevented it happening in 2014. It is back this year and going forward. Trail Race Director Whorton says the trail event is the perfect introductory trail race for those new to the sport.
“It’s only 8 miles,” he says. “With approximately 500 feet of climbing and the same amount of descent over the distance, it’s about the flattest trail race you’ll find in Eastern Tennessee.”
While there may be a bit of mud on the course-nature can be unpredictable-the course is mostly grass or dirt with only a short section of rock stairs and a few road crossings.
If running one of the events doesn’t interest you, plan to volunteer. The park is a beautiful place to be anytime of the year, but especially in the spring when everything is bright and new after the short, dark days of winter. Skonberg says the volunteers have become essentially partners to the race. They come to the event from all walks of life with different strengths that benefit the event and the runners on the course.
You can also support the Friends of the Park by making a tax-deductible contribution. Certainly running or volunteering The Chickamauga Chase financially supports the Friends of Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, a not-for-profit organization that serves as an advocate for the park helping to preserve, promote, and enhance its resources for the benefit of the public.
“Federal budget constraints, and the National Park Service seems to always be on the cutting edge of the budget knife,” Skonberg says. “The Friends of the Park try to fill in where help is needed the most, and much of their work is very visible such as the Visitors Center theatre, the restoration of Wilder Tower, and the Lytle monument.”
If you’ve never visited the park, this race is your chance to see why it’s such a treasure.