A trail marathon was run Saturday on Raccoon Mountain, and it’s part of a series that includes ultra-marathons on nearby mountains in the fall. And there’s the long-popular Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon just across the state line.
But a longtime dream of many in the area running community will happen on Oct. 16 — a 26.2-mile race in downtown Chattanooga.
It’s the Seven Bridges Marathon, sending runners across the Tennessee River six times, ending at the carousel at Coolidge Park. It is being organized by Scenic City Multisport.
“Approval took about six months,” SCM president Denny Marshall explained. “It started with Philip Grymes at Outdoor Chattanooga, then soon moved to the Special Event Executive Committee, all of whom were extremely helpful in the planning of the event.”
That committee included representatives of the Chattanooga police and fire departments, Public Works and traffic engineering, along with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Friends of the Festival and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Marshall said.
The Chattanooga Track Club is not officially involved — with the battlefield marathon just four weekends later — but club members have been and will be part of the Seven Bridges organizing effort. Marshall himself is a first-year member of the track club’s board and its race committee.
“It has the blessing of the track club. It’s just not a track club event,” said Joey Howe, store manager for Fast Break and a longtime runner and track club member whom Marshall credited with considerable help so far.
“This is extremely exciting for anyone who’s been running in Chattanooga for a long time,” Howe said. “We’ve been trying for probably 30 years to get a marathon in the city. Three or four of us at the store are going to run in it.”
Howe praised Marshall and Ken Radley, the Chattanooga Triathlon Club founder who is Marshall’s partner in Scenic City Multisport, for their marathon persistence.
“Ken and I had to go through a bunch of meetings, a bunch of revisions and a bunch of date changes,” Marshall acknowledged. “Everybody involved with the city, the county and TDOT had good input to make it work.”
They started with the idea of a December race and then tried for sometime in the spring before settling on mid-October. Both the Seven Bridges and Battlefield marathons will have half marathon options, if someone wants to use a 13.1-miler as a marathon tuneup or a follow-up, and Huntsville has a marathon four weeks after the battlefield race if anyone wants to run one in the region every autumn month.
The battlefield event has a 1,500-runner cap set by the National Park Service, and it likely will be filled by July. Marshall said the Seven Bridges races, which also will include a 5k and kiddie K, will have a cap of 2,500 this year, but Howe for one believes it could handle more.
The Market Street Bridge will be closed to traffic “for about 30 minutes” to get all the runners across at the start from the Coolidge-Renaissance area, Marshall said. The other river bridges will have traffic restricted but won’t be closed.
The order of bridges for the marathoners is Market Street, Olgiati, Veterans, C.B. Robinson, Thrasher, the creek bridge on the Tennessee Riverpark and Walnut Street. Half marathoners will cross four bridges; 5k runners will use two.