There's still time for people to sign up for the 44th annual Chickamauga Chase to be held on April 21, but spaces are limited and are filling up fast. According to George Skonberg, Chickamauga Chase race director, more than 1,000 of the 1,700 available spots have already been filled.
"We hope to reach the limit," he said. "It's a unique race to participate in because of the distance and gorgeous setting."
The Chickamauga Chase is Chattanooga's oldest continuously run road race, and what Skonberg refers to as the signature event, the 15k, is one of America's oldest races because of the distance it covers.
"There are not many 15k races left," Skonberg said.
The race, which started in 1968, was originally only 10 miles and then changed to the 15k, while a secondary 5k race was added to attract shorter-distance runners.
Aside from being a part of history itself, the race event carries deep-rooted history and tradition. At the beginning, Civil War re-enactor John Culpepper starts the race with a musket gun blast.
Participants typically say they enjoy the scenic courses, which are paved and take them through the historic Chickamauga Battlefield Park's markers, monuments and sites. The park's road does remain open during the race, so Skonberg reminds people to keep that in mind but said vehicular traffic is typically light.
Jack McFarland of Decatur, Ga., has run all 44 of the events. McFarland said he loves the race because it is so well organized.
"I don't want to break the streak. I'll be participating as long as I can," McFarland said, adding that his goal is 50 races. "Running gives you longevity, you can eat whatever you want, and it's something you can do anywhere. I have a feeling if I would not have started running I would not be here today."
Participants and spectators can spot McFarland in the No. 44 T-shirt and won't miss one of the race's largest groups, Volkswagen, in their bright yellow shirts.
"He's a great role model," Skonberg said of McFarland. "The bottom line is I'd like to see 100 in the 70-plus age group. That means we're doing it right. Running is all about health and fitness. You can still enjoy the pursuit as you age."
Awards will be given to first, second and third place winners in each age group and the overall male and female for both the 15k and 5k will receive a shadowbox of the Enfield Rifle Bayonet replica.
"Everyone who participates gets a great T-shirt," Skonberg said. "We pride ourselves in extremely high-quality T-shirts and a lot of time is spent making them just right."
Chase participants will receive door prizes, free Powerade/Coca-Cola products, fresh fruit from Greenlife and bakery items provided by Niedlov's Bakery.
The race receives generous sponsorship from Chattem's Icy Hot and UBS. All profits of the Chickamauga Chase go to Friends of the Park - Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.