It’s a crisp fall morning. The cool air reaches your lungs as each footstep carries you over a complex rock garden, covered in slippery moss. You break through spider webs, and your legs and lungs feel every ounce of effort needed to propel your body up the next hill. Eyes glued to the trail, looking for roots or rocks that might trip you up, you find your rhythm.
That’s one experience of trail running, the increasingly popular sport that connects people to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust’s land. Hiking on any of the Trust's trails connects you to a show of vibrant autumn colors and the fragrant aroma of fallen leaves.
But the scene is a bit more hectic three days of the year when Trust partner Rock/Creek holds its annual trail races at Prentice Cooper State Forest—the River Gorge 10.2-mile race in March, and the Stump Jump 50K and 15K race in early October. Hundreds of runners from across the country crowd the start line, watches ready. They head into the woods, decked out in brightly colored shirts and neon compression socks, water bottles in hand.
“Trail running is a great way to experience all of the highly accessible natural beauty that surrounds Chattanooga,” says Brian Costilow, race director for the Rock/Creek trail series. “We’re so lucky to have access to so many miles of trails within a 30-minute drive of downtown Chattanooga. The River Gorge Trust helps make that possible.”
Opportunities to Connect
Through Rock/Creek’s trail series, participants get to run and race on some of the area’s diverse and dynamic landscapes. The series has picked up steam since its inception in the early 2000s, blossoming from one or two annual races to now more than 10.
Costilow says a key component to these trail races is supporting trails and organizations, such as the Trust, that protect these lands. Since 2014, they’ve donated proceeds from these races—the River Gorge 10.2, Stump Jump 50K, and Stump Jump 15K—to the Trust. In turn, the Trust has used these funds to build and maintain trails on Trust land and Prentice Cooper State Forest. This year’s races resulted in a $6,000 donation to the Trust.
“Tennessee River Gorge Trust depends on our partners, not only for financial support, but so that we can connect with people who care about our home. We want to see our city develop in a smart way, and we want to see our natural open spaces protected into the future,” says Sarah Quattrochi, Associate Director at the Trust. “This race series is a really fun way to connect people with this treasure in our backyard, and to appreciate and explore it.”
Down the Trail
Through the proceeds from the races, the Trust hired Southeast Conservation Corps to help build a new trail that will connect Trust owned land at Pot Point to the Cumberland Trail. Rock/Creek’s adventurous trail races and the Trust’s thriving trail network form a symbiotic relationship - the Trust ensures these areas are accessible, and proceeds keep the trail systems maintained and growing for community enjoyment and use.
Take part in the madness of trail running—explore some of the Gorge’s gorgeous trails!