Participants of the Fun Family 50K. / Contributed photo by Missy Elliot

North Chattanooga resident Missy Elliot and her sister Shelley Meredith feed off of each other's energy. They finish each other's sentences, share the same friend group and run together at least three times a week.

Last summer, Elliot, Meredith, their sister-in-law Stacy Johnson and friend Kim Stone signed up for the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K. By the time the event took place in mid-October, Stone was living in another city and Meredith was out because of an injury.

Johnson, who was turning 40 that year, had her heart set on completing the 50K.

"She wanted to prove she could do it," Meredith said.

The StumpJump has three cutoff points. Johnson and Elliot were 10 minutes over the time limit for the first cutoff and eliminated from the race. But their disappointment didn't last too long. Quickly, the group of friends began looking for another race so Johnson could achieve her goal.

When they couldn't find one, they created their own.

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Runners of the Fun Family 50K celebrate the end of the race. / Contributed photo by Missy Elliot

One weekend over drinks, Elliot and Meredith enlisted the help of friends and family to design a course on Lookout Mountain. They crafted medals with wood from an old tree in Normal Park, and printed shirts with lyrics from the theme song of "Friends."

They called the race the Fun Family 50K-ish, with the "ish" added to indicate that it's only a 50K "to some extent." Nobody was forced to run an actual 50K but the option was there. The term "family" was also a loose application, as the event welcomed participants from around the area.

The race was built around inclusivity, said Meredith, with no time cutoff, age restrictions or registration fees. Everybody got a medal, everybody got a shirt and everybody stayed until the last person crossed the finish line.

As she raises her kids, Elliot said she feels it's important to show them that spending time together doesn't have to involve going out to eat or to the movies; it could consist of going for a run or a hike. What's important to her is emulating a lifestyle that's founded on health and family.

Elliot and Meredith have a brother, Brian Johnson, who also lives in the area and shares their values. When their kids were younger, they had "Family Fridays" when everybody got together for a good time. Elliot's son, who turned 17 in June, told his mom he missed those gatherings, so they're planning to bring them back.

The sisters are also tossing around ideas for a second race. They're considering calling it the "Fun Family 50th" in honor Elliot's 50th birthday. While still in the beginning planning stages for the race, they expect to hold it in the fall and open up registration this summer.

Being so family-minded, Elliot said she couldn't organize the race without her sister and friends, even if she needs to give them a push.

"I don't mind being the instigator," she said, "because time and time again, everybody jumps right on it."

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