The 2013 Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series will bring visitors from all over the world—who will bring tourism dollars to Chattanooga—and the money they pay to enter the events will support efforts to promote the use, expansion and protection of Chattanooga-area trails.
"We really wanted to showcase all the different trails we have around Chattanooga," Mark McKnight, Rock/Creek marketing director, said Wednesday afternoon.
"The ultimate goal is to have a 100-miler one day," McKnight said. "It's possible we will run a test 100-miler this year. People are asking for it. People want it."
Registration for the eight different runs opened Jan. 1, and about 400 people signed up by the afternoon of Jan. 2, he said.
The number of races has slowly grown over the past decade.
About 10 years ago, Matt Sims, a Rock/Creek employee at the time, wanted to expose the general public to the trails around Chattanooga.
And the Rock/Creek River Gorge was born, soon followed by the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K.
Soon after those events got started, Kris and Randy Whorton, who were both passionate about trail preservation and running, moved to Chattanooga.
Then, in 2007, Kris and Randy teamed up with Rock/Creek owner Dawson Wheeler, McKnight, Sims and Chad Wamack to create the Wilderness Trail Running Association, according to the Wild Trails website.
They all had a similar vision, and as the two initial events became more popular, the group added six more races.
The eight races became the Rock/Creek Trail Series.
Eventually, the Wilderness Trail Running Association took on a new identity and broader mission and became Wild Trails, according to the website.
Although the official financial report for 2012 hasn't been completed because the year just ended, McKnight estimated that the nonprofit raised about $100,000 last year.
Leaders then use the money to fund grants to support area trails, McKnight said. For example, the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association got one of the grants, McKnight said.
"We have two cycles of five grants that are about $2,000 apiece," he said.
Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K
Trail running, tourism
According to The Outdoor Foundation, the sport attracted 4.8 million participants who went on 153.7 million running outings in 2009.
McKnight said that people from across the world, such as Venezuela or Switzerland, come to run in the Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series.
And many of them have to get a hotel room and eat after running so many miles.
"It isn't a one-day kind of thing," he said.
Some people can be intimidated by the idea of trail running, but McKnight said it isn't always what people think. People of all ages and body types can participate, he said.
The average person who would run a 50-mile race is more than 40 years old, he said. Sometimes, people get better with age, he also said.
"This is a sport for everybody," he said.
The schedule, to register
Click here for more information about how to register for each race.
The 2013 Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series schedule is as follows:
—March 23: Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race (10.2 miles or 6.5 miles)
—May 18: Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon
—June 14-16: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race (Three days: 18 miles, 22 miles and 20 miles)
—Aug. 10: Still Hollow Half Marathon and 10K
—Sept. 15: Southern 6 Trail Race (6 kilometers and Kid K)
—Oct. 5: Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K and 11 mile
—Nov. 9: Upchuck 50K
—Dec. 21: Lookout Mountain 50-Miler and 10K