published Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

In for the long run: Chattanooga-to-Nashville relay starts Friday

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    Relay teams, some with team members dressed in costumes, will start Friday morning from Coolidge Park on the 196 mile Tennessee Ragnar Relay road race from Chattanooga to Nashville. (Contributed Photos)

The Chattanooga area is well known for distance running, and many area residents have participated in some of the many 5- and 10-kilometer races that are held throughout the year.

For a longer test of endurance, there is the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, and this year featured the inaugural 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga.

In addition, the Rock/Creek StumpJump and Upchuck 50ks and Lookout Mountain 50-miler give area trail runners off-road distance challenges.

As impressive as all of those races are, by far the longest foot race in the area begins Friday morning at Coolidge park and ends the next day and 196 miles away in downtown Nashville.

The Tennessee Ragnar Relay, in its second year, will have 6- or 12-person teams combine to run the nearly 200 miles. Participants take turns running while vans carry teammates who have finished their legs or are awaiting their turns on the road.

Heather Lam is the captain of the Chattanooga Chaffers, and she will be participating in her second Tennessee Ragnar Relay. Her team includes six experienced Ragnar runners and six newcomers to an event of this type, and she said that while the Chaffers will try to do well the main goal is having fun.

"I guess it seems daunting to some people when they think about running these distances," she said earlier this week. "But for us it's just about bragging rights, and we have a great time. We have fun in our vehicles heckling our runners -- not other runners -- and have fun with it."

There are 15 Ragnar Relays held throughout the United States, and the Tennessee race will have a slightly different route from Chattanooga to Nashville this year. The race continues nonstop over two days with each team member running three legs of 3 to 8 miles.

While many teams take the Ragnar Relay very seriously as a competitive race, others try to have fun with the event by wearing funny costumes. Lam and the Chattanooga Chaffers haven't settled on a costume yet, but she hopes to come up with something to make her team stand out on the roads of Middle Tennessee this weekend.

"We are hoping to [dress up for the race], but we have to find a costume," she said. "We just want to find something like leggings or wigs that we can all wear together.

"The main attraction is bragging rights to say that you've run from Chattanooga to Nashville, but you also get to run where we live and see areas in this state that we never knew existed from driving on the interstate to Nashville."

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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