No one really expected 30 Whole Foods employees to sign up for the Rock/Creek Stump Jump 50k run when Ken Meyer, vice president of operations at Whole Foods, sent a companywide invitation to join him in the event.
But here they are.
"It's huge," Susan Baker, Chattanooga marketing team leader, said Friday afternoon. "I think it says a lot about what we're doing in Chattanooga."
Whole Foods is based in Austin, Texas, and has locations coast to coast. Meyer, who is running in the Stump Jump, sent an email to employees across the chain to run with him.
Baker was excited when she found out about three months ago that a vice president of her company would be visiting.
"He's picked our city," she said. "It's so fun just to host team members from all over the country."
Amy Joe, executive coordinator of purchasing in the South region, hung out with Whole Foods participants at Coolidge Park on Friday afternoon. Stump Jump runners came by the Whole Foods tent and picked up healthy snacks to get prepped for the run today.
Chattanooga has a "really warm, earthy feel to it," said Joe, who lives and works in Roswell, Ga., but has visited Chattanooga several times.
And she'll be back, not just for work.
"First of all, the landscape is beautiful," she said. "I'll be back on pleasure trips."
As far as Joe knows, this is the first time Meyer has invited Whole Foods employees across the board to join him at an event.
"I think it's pretty powerful," she said, that Chattanooga now holds that designation.
Meyer stood around with Whole Foods employees Friday afternoon at the park, but he did not want to speak with media.
Many Whole Foods employees are going to see other things while in town. Jenn Lewis and her family are from North Carolina. While she is running the Stump Jump today, her young son, Michael Igoe, will be hitting the Tennessee Aquarium and the IMAX Theater with his dad.
She and other out-of-state employees said Chattanooga has been sort of a surprise to them, with its landscapes, family activities and entertainment.
That's another win for the company's Stump Jump participation.
"We had no idea what the turnout would be," Baker said.
The run is today along parts of Signal Mountain and through the Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Area. According to a Rock/Creek trail map, the 50k includes 4,442 feet of climbing.
Lewis knew immediately it was going to be a challenge, but she jumped on the invitation.
"Wow, that's crazy -- where do I sign up?" she said.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.