Tim Ensign is the Wauhatchie Trail king, having won the Chattanooga Track Club's annual handicapped race from the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center eight times since he turned 40. He's 51 now.
The last two years, Ensign has had to chase down a guy in his 70s to win the 6.7-mile race on the lower slopes of Lookout Mountain. And that scenario well could play out again Saturday morning, when the first runners will go off at 9:30.
Sergio Bianchini, who turns 73 in February, won't be in the first group -- that's women 80 and older -- but he'll get a 16-minute head start over the last group turned loose, 20-to-24-year-old males. Ensign will start five and a half minutes before those guys, who include Bianchini's son Marco.
Beyond its particular scenic appeal, the Wauhatchie Trail Run is unique on the CTC schedule because it tries to give everyone a chance for the overall win, regardless of age or gender. That person gets the coveted Golden Antlers Award, and another set of gold antlers goes to the family pairing that does the best.
When Ensign surged past Sergio at the end two years ago, the Bianchinis managed the family win as Marco passed Barbara Ensign, Tim's wife. Brothers Bradley and Bob Adams were the family winners last year, and Marco Bianchini noted Wednesday that siblings Joseph and Daniel Goetz will be a dangerous tandem.
Other different aspects of the Wauhatchie race are the traditions of participants pitching in food for the postrace noshing and bringing T-shirts and trophies from old races -- plus a variety of other things -- to stock the prize table.
Ensign said Wednesday that he of course expects he'll have a challenge again in overtaking Sergio Bianchini, who didn't start running competitively until he was in his 60s but regularly finishes in the top 30 of area races, but also must be concerned about Cohutta's Dean Thompson chasing him down. Ensign has developed a strong masters rivalry with good friend Thompson in recent years.
"I've got a minute and a half [start time] on Dean, and I'll probably need it," said the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga runner from City High School. "He's been getting the best of me."
A really good 18- or 19-year-old has a chance to win this race, too, Ensign pointed out, since that is not the zero-start age group.
"This race is fun because it's a level playing field," track club president Chas Webb said. "It gives the older folks a little boost and it makes the younger crowd have to try that much harder."
Webb will be serving as the "sweeper," carrying a broom throughout the race. His job is to make sure no one falls by the wayside or gets lost -- in other words, that everyone who starts the race gets a safe exit.
Race-day registration costs $15 and begins at 8 a.m.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.