This year's Rock/Creek Trail Series officially has added an event, plugging into an empty month on the schedule with yet another type and length of course, but it's hardly being started from scratch.
In fact, the April 20 addition to the trail series is merely a new option for the oldest event on the area's running calendar. It will be part of the 45th Chickamauga Chase in the nation's oldest national military park.
Rock/Creek marketing director Mark McKnight announced Wednesday that the Chickamauga Chase trail race had received the approval of the National Park Service and will be included in the kickoff event of the Friends of the Park's sesquicentennial (150th) observance of the Battle of Chickamauga.
The Chickamauga Chase still will have its 15- and 5-kilometer competitive races and its scenic walk and Kiddie K components. An official measurement of the trail course will be done in the next few days, but it approaches eight miles, McKnight said.
"We already have almost 100 people signed up and we haven't even announced what they're running yet," he said with a laugh.
The trail registration will be limited to 400, and runners who already have signed up for the 15k or 5k can change to the trail run if they wish, longtime Chickamauga Chase director George Skonberg said. The total registration maximum for all the April 20 events is 2,000 -- up from 1,700 last year, when the participants count was 1,679.
"The Chattanooga Track Club is thrilled to partner with the Rock/Creek Trail Series," Skonberg said. "They're a neat group. I'm just a stockbroker who directs a race, and I've already learned a lot from Randy Whorton, their race director.
"I think it's going to be a win-win."
The Chase trail race falls between the River Gorge Trail Race on March 23 and the Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon on May 18, so it comes at a good time for the Rock/Creek organizers.
"Randy brings new race ideas to our board on a continual basis, and it's a continuous evolution where we sometimes have said there's plenty on our plate, we don't need more," McKnight said. "But this is a great fit, and we're working with a race director and a group of volunteers who've got all these years of experience. There are just so many pluses.
"This will be one of the few trail races in the Southeast where you can run through wide-open fields and see a lot of your competitors -- most of ours are in deep woods -- and running by all the Civil War monuments will be pretty neat for the people who love history."
All five Chase options will begin at 8:30 a.m., Skonberg said, and the trail race will start "within a musket shot of the road-race starting line." Most of the trail route will be in the southeast corner of the park, "and it's beautiful," he added, describing the course as "moderately challenging."
He said the idea for a trail option has been "tossed around a number of years," but it was within the last year that he hooked up with Whorton and the concept took tangible form.
"The National Park Service has fully embraced this," Skonberg said, praising the support from rangers John McCutcheon and Todd Roeder as well as superintendent Cathy Cook.
"The sesquicentennial celebration will include a symphony in the park, a huge battle re-enactment at McLemore's Cove, a lot of things," Skonberg noted. "The Friends of the Park have a pretty significant fundraising goal, and the Chickamauga Chase hopes to raise 20 percent of that."
Entry fees are $25 for each of the three competitive races, but park supporters can help further with a $150 payment that will cover race entry, 2013 memberships to the track club and Friends of the Park, special recognition and other perks.