River Gorge Race 10.2 Mile Trail Race
It’s 8:25 on a chilly March morning and well over 200 men and women are milling around a gravel parking lot in Prentice Cooper State Forest. Some stand in line for the porta-john, while others stretch or huddle with friends sipping coffee. Despite the crisp air, most wear shorts and thin T-shirts, their shoes laced tightly and their bibs attached with safety pins. A voice comes over the speaker announcing that
it’s almost time, and everyone makes their way to the narrow road, carefully choosing where to join the throng. There’s a slow countdown and then the people take off, hundreds of runners sprinting up the first of many steep hills. Some of them have completed this exact routine dozens of times, and others are feeling the thrill of their very first trail race. There’s one thing, though, that each person has in common: Over the next 10 miles, they’ll experience some of Chattanooga’s most beautiful terrain.
This is the start of the Rock/Creek River Gorge Race. To us, it’s one of the best moments of the year.
Since its creation in 2000, the River Gorge Race has lent its magic to thousands of runners, many of whom return year after year. The course, which follows Mullens Cove Loop, has it all: scenery, singletrack and a few serious climbs. The loop begins on a gravel road, allowing runners to spread out before they enter singletrack and squeeze through the stone door to the Indian Rock House. From there, the trail traces the bluff above the Tennessee River, affording views of the pristine gorge before crossing to the opposite side of the ridge. Creek crossings, rolling hillsand one painful slog up Haley Road ensue, and then runners face their final challenge in the infamous Rock Garden. The finish line is alive with music, spectators and triumphant runners, who pat each other on the back and swap tales from their journey through the River Gorge Race.