Rock/Creek today announces a new lineup of trail running races in Chattanooga for 2016. Building on the legendary Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k and River Gorge Trail Race, the new series includes distances from a couple miles all the way up to 100k. With the addition of three kids’ races, organized in partnership with local specialty run shop Fast Break Athletics, the new series aims to bring a new generation of runners into the sport. Registration for the popular original races (StumpJump and River Gorge) is already open and can be found on ultrasignup. The complete race listing with registration information will be available at rockcreek.com/race.
The full list of events follows:
Rock/Creek River Gorge 10.2 mile Trail Race by Toyota of Cleveland: March 26th, 2016
Rock/Creek Rabid Raccoon 25k & Kids Race around Laurel Point: May 7th
Rock/Creek Enterprise South Nature Park 10k: June 11th, 2016
Rock/Creek Women’s Trail Summit: September 8-11, 2016
Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k presented by Toyota of Cleveland: October 1, 2016
Rock/Creek StumpJump 15k: October 2
Rock/Creek StumpJump Kids’ Trail Race: October 2, 2016
Rock/Creek Stillhouse 100k: December 3rd
Stone Fort Stomp, October 22
The events will be sponsored by Toyota of Cleveland, Salomon, La Sportiva, Chattanooga Whiskey, Marmot, Patagonia, The North Face, Hot Yoga Plus, Fast Break Athletics, and Kelly Subaru.
A Legacy of Trail Running in Chattanooga
Rock/Creek’s history in trail racing goes back to the first distance trail race ever created in Chattanooga, the StumpJump 50k, created by Matt Sims, manager at the time of the retailer’s downtown store. As he recalls it, “The Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k was born from a trail run that I did with John Fellers from Signal Point to Mullens Cove one day in the Fall of 2000. At this point the River Gorge Race had not even been thought of yet, but on that run I thought it would be cool to expose people to running in Prentice Cooper. This was a beautiful area to run in and there was hardly any signs of people utilizing Prentice Cooper for running or hiking. The only trail race established at that point was the Wauhatchie Trail Run.” In the sixteen intervening years, quite a bit has changed about Chattanooga, and about trail running. No longer a fringe sport, trail running has taken off, propelled by cultural forces like a best-selling book about ultrarunning in Mexico, and a growing population of people pushing their limits in nature.
At its height, the StumpJump attracted 1,000 participants. “A couple years ago after such a huge event, we decided to take the series back down to a grassroots level to improve the overall runners’ experience,” says Chad Wykle from Rock/Creek and one of the instrumental players in the race organization. Chattanooga recently solidified its outdoor status by being named Outside magazine’s “Best Town Ever.” With the increased popularity comes a renewed realization on Rock/Creek’s part that new trails must continuously be developed, and existing trails will need more work than ever to withstand the increased usage. With the focus back to grassroots events, more of the money can go directly to environmental causes, explains race director Brian Costilow: “The fees from races are going directly back to the community of trail users through donations to the non-profits managing the land, such as SORBA, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, or Cumberland Trail Conference. All involved should be proud that last year’s races raised an average of $10 per runner for conservation. That success reflects on the power of the volunteer base, the heavy involvement of Rock/Creek’s staff, and the generous contributions of sponsors.”
Women’s Trail Running Summit Returns
Also back by popular demand is the Rock/Creek Women’s Trail Running Summit. The weekend event will bring together a dedicated group of female trail runners who share a passion for running, the outdoors, and the promotion of an active lifestyle in their own communities. This event will be for everyone from the beginner to the seasoned trail runner. Mileage will be determined according to ability, with short runs in the 4 to 6 mile range and longer runs around 10 to 12 or more miles. The purpose of this weekend is for participants to inspire and learn from one another, foster new connections, improve female participation in trail running, and become ambassadors of the sport. The weekend will be led by the women of the Rock/Creek Race Team. Participants will spend time exploring the trails in and around Chattanooga, with runs to be held on the beautiful, lush trails of Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain. Trail running workshops, guided discussions, and catered meals will be provided. Again, to protect the grassroots feel fo the event, participation will be capped at 48 individuals. Sponsors for this event include Kelly Subaru, The North Face, Hot Yoga Plus, Fast Break Athletics.
Several New Races Added for 2016
Last year, the shorter distances were cut from these two original races in order to improve the courses and reduce the overall event size. Many people expressed their desire for the shorter races to return, but the elimination of the 10.2 mile at StumpJump in particular improved the 50k course significantly. The previous shorter course had always prevented this better route from being used. But, as Costilow tells it, the new course “eliminated the gravel spiral around the high school and utilized more single-track bluff trail on Signal Mountain. As such, this new course is much harder. There is now over 6,000 feet of total elevation gain on the course.” Racers favored the new course so much that Rock/Creek just decided to add another race the next day instead of interfering with the new and improved route. As a new addition this year, the Rock/Creek StumpJump 15k will bring back a fast, technical race utilizing the trail from the High School to Edwards Point, then Mushroom Rock loop of the 50k course. As another addition, there will be a two-mile kids’ race around the trails of Shackleford Ridge Park.
For May, the Rock/Creek Rabid Raccoon 25k has been added, and Costilow calls this one “an epic middle distance run.” The course will begin on the top of Raccoon Mountain at Laurel Point. This race will take place solely on the north and western side of Raccoon Mountain, utilizing the following trails: Megawatt, Grindstone Ridge, Lower Chunky, Live Wire 1 & 2, High Voltage, and Split Rock. This course will take runners to the base of Raccoon via a long five mile descent of Live Wire and then directly back up a lung-busting ascent of High Voltage. “This course will have serious bite and not for the faint of heart! It will be run in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions every other year. For the 2016 year, we will run in the counter-clockwise direction,” Costilow says. He also added that there will be some “unique” awards for this race: “The top ten male and female runners will receive a real raccoon skull. The first one hundred finishers will receive a raccoon jawbone.”
Another shorter race, the new Enterprise South Nature Park 10k, will take place in June. This race will attract veteran road and trail runners, with about half of the race taking place on each surface. Proceeds will benefit the Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA) and there will also be a short kids’ race run this day as well. If 10k isn’t your distance, add a zero and try one of the most difficult runs ever organized in Chattanooga, the Stillhouse 100k. Sponsored (appropriately) by Chattanooga Whiskey, the race will basically double up the legendary Upchuck 50k. Costilow warns runners that this one won’t be easy: “This is a serious endeavor and will quite possibly be your hardest 100k effort to date. With close to 12,000 feet of elevation gain, this is a difficult run and will not be open for beginner ultra runners. It is the perfect course to test the mettle of those seasoned ultra runners looking to take the next step towards a 100 miler. Registration will be capped at a small number and prerequisite experience will be required and scrutinized.”
Costilow also hopes the variety of races and distances draws in a new generation of runners, not just for the kids’ races but also adults who are new to the sport. As Costilow explains, “This new series is meant to appeal to all runners, road and trail, new and veteran…and encourage people to get outside and explore our trails. It should inspire those who have always wanted to run on trail but haven’t, as well as pique the interest of seasoned veteran runners.” Runners can expect to see a variety of terrain throughout the series. You can’t help but daydream about spring conditions as Costilow describes the classic River Gorge course, with “magnificent bluff views of the Tennessee River as well as cascading streams lined with rhododendron and towering hemlock.” Dawson Wheeler, co-founder of Rock/Creek, says the team “is excited to grow our relationships with the state forests and nonprofits who are doing the heavy lifting around conservation and to have more of the Rock/Creek family involved in direct access.”
About Rock/Creek Founded in 1987, Rock/Creek strives to offer the best outdoor clothing and equipment from popular brands like Patagonia, Marmot, prAna, The North Face, Toad&Co, and Outdoor Research. With 6 conveniently-located stores in the Chattanooga area, including Cleveland, TN, Rock/Creek’s highly-educated and knowledgeable staff make them one of the best specialty retailers in the country.