|10-lb Parrott Cannon|
"It was a gorgeous day for a race. Sunny and crisp. We started out near the museum and made our way on a trail to the paved majority of the course. About 1.5 miles in I heard a sudden movement in the woods on the left side. As quickly as I could point at it, a deer ran across the road about 25 yards in front of us. The doe moved so gracefully and so fast it was breathtaking. You could just feel it. We all let out big yells and cheers, and everyone chattered on about it for a few minutes.
At about the 4.25-mile mark we left the woods and came into a short, quarter mile clearing called Winfrey field. The fog still hadn't lifted, and that combined with the cannon monuments made it a surreal sight."
I'm currently preparing for my first marathon - the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon. A couple of months ago I was browsing the training section of the site and noticed the Chattanooga Track Club would be holding weekly training runs beginning in July. I looked at the schedule and saw that three of them would be on the race course. Knowing the confidence that comes with familiarity, I decided I would make the 3-hour trip at least one once.
I pulled into the parking lot about 20 minutes before the 7:00 am start and had a hard time finding a parking spot. Almost all of the 75 places were already taken. I approached a group of about 20-25 runners and tried to find out what was going on. A man by the name of Doug was giving directions to the crowd, but I knew I wouldn't remember all the street names. I asked who else in the crowd was running 18 miles, and hands shot up. I saw two guys across the group from me that "looked" like they might run the same pace as me and approached them. Steve said they were going to be running around 8-minute miles, but there was a risk that the other guy, Ryan, had a tendency to increase the pace. Even though it was a little faster than I was planning (8:15 - 9:00/miles) I decided to stick with them as long as I could. It was a crisp 61° with low humidity, and I was eager to get moving.
|Shady running through the forest|
The track club had things organized pretty well for the 9-mile double loop. At miles 3 and 6 there were water stops in the beds of pickup trucks, and at the start/finish there was more of the same plus snacks. It was a real treat getting to run without a humidity blanket and my hydration pack.
Ryan knew the park like the back of his hand and took us off the course on a short trail to keep things interesting. I was really surprised at how good I was feeling as we finished the first 10 miles at about an 8-minute average.
During our midpoint stop we were questioned by a park ranger about some food that had been left out near a club member's car. For some reason he singled me out, called me over to his truck and interrogated me. He wanted to know if it was my truck we transferred the food to, and when I told him it wasn't he asked if I knew whose it was. He was serious as a heart attack and very tightly wound. Later some of the other runners told me that the park service had it out for us. They didn't like how we took up all the spaces in the parking lot.
|Huge open fields with monuments|
We stood around and chatted in the parking lot for a few and I gladly tossed a few dollars in the donations bag before I left. Unfortunately, I had to get going back my hotel to shower, change and check out within 45 minutes.
I returned to the park later and spent a couple of hours taking it all in and snapping photos. I stopped by the visitor's center and watched a film about the battles of Chickamauga (the Rebs won) and Chattanooga (the Yanks held it). I was then able to visualize where some of the battle lines were and followed the maps to see for myself where the soldiers faced off. One aspect I found impressive was that all the cannons in the park are properly positioned for battle. You can see right where the lines would have been formed.
A big thanks to CTC for the support, water stops and snacks, and to Steve and Ryan for making me feel like one of the group. I hope to make it back up again on October 23rd for one more run on the course before race day.