The rustle of windblown leaves will mingle with the sound of 1,500 pairs of pounding feet this Saturday, Nov. 10, during the 33rd running of the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon.
"I'm so envious of those starting on race morning," said race co-director Jenni Berz. "I'd love to run the course. It is pretty and challenging enough to keep it interesting for runners of all ages and skill levels."
Runner's World magazine ranked this marathon as the "Most Family-Friendly" marathon in its 2010 race rankings while listing it second for "Most Scenic" and third for 'Best Overall."
Because of these accolades, this event brings runners from across the nation.
Berz said more than 375 runners will be attempting their first half- or full marathon this weekend, but there will be many who return every November for Northwest Georgia's premier marathon.
"People come back because they love the area, they love the race," she said.
Something different this years will be a group of participants using the Galloway Method of mixing intervals of walking with running to cover the distance
The race is restricted to 1,500 participants - 800 for the half-marathon and 700 for the full 23.6-mile marathon - due to National Park Service concerns about runner safety and because the park must remain open to the public.
Limiting the number of participants means the race is usually "sold out" within weeks of being announced, but a few openings for this year's full marathon remain, officials said.
Even with its arbitrary constraints the marathon is the single largest event, both in numbers of participants and dollars spent, tourism-wise for the year, according to 6th Cavalry Museum Executive Director and tourism association member Chris McKeever.
The marathon has called Fort Oglethorpe home since 2008 when the Fort Oglethorpe Tourism Association came on board as an event sponsor, she said.
Local businesses and volunteer groups work with the Chattanooga Track Club (CTC) to make the event a highlight on runners' calendars and a bright spot for local merchants.
"This race could not be staged so successfully without the support of the tourism association, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School JROTC cadets, First Baptist Church, local government - just the entire community," Berz said.
Not only do local officials and businesses support the marathon, the National Park Service will offer special programs for runners, volunteers and spectators.
The Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park will have re-enactors with the 9th Kentucky Infantry, U.S.A. conduct infantry talks and demonstrations at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center at 10 a.m., 11:30 am, 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on race day.
Part of Brig. Gen. Samuel Beatty's Brigade, the 9th Kentucky was heavily engaged at the Battle of Chickamauga, where it sustained a 28 percent casualty rate, one of the highest sustained by any unit in that bloody battle fought Sept. 18-20, 1863.
Beautiful weather is forecast for the event, when the marathoners will run past deer grazing on the battlefield and around monuments that pay silent homage to the 34,000 casualties of that battle fought 149 years ago.
There is plenty of free parking for spectators and participants in the field adjacent the race's start/finish. There will also be free shuttle service for spectators wishing to cheer on their favorite runners in the battlefield. Spectators are urged to not drive to the battlefield to minimize traffic congestion.