I’ve been thinking about doing a Georgia marathon since we’re within driving distance here in Missouri.
So after the Marine Corps Marathon I made the last minute decision to sign up for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Fort Oglethorpe, GA on Nov 8, 2014.
It was around a 6 hour drive each way and we left the kids with my Mom and drove down there on the Friday before the race. I entertained myself by reading reviews of the race on Marathon Guide and was happy to see that most everything was positive.
The Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon
The race was put on by the Chattanooga Track Club and they sent out a couple pre-race emails with information about packet pick up, the course and other details. In addition to the marathon they also had a half marathon, 5k and kids marathon.
The expo was located at a local church so it was easy to find parking and quickly get my bib, gear check bag, a small waist pack and shirt. They also put a band around my wrist which I assumed was for the pasta dinner being held at the same location. The shirt was a gender specific long sleeve technical shirt.
You could pick up additional flyers and stuff at the expo but they didn’t automatically put it in your bag (because most of it gets thrown away anyway). There were 5-6 booths at the expo so it was very small. They also offered race day packet pick up which was nice for those driving in the morning of the race. Trevor and I spent maybe 5 minutes there, went and found a place to eat and then checked into our hotel for the night.
We stayed around 5 miles from the starting line which was located at the 6th Calvary Museum in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. However, since there is one road to get into the military park it took around 20 minutes to get parked. We found a spot in overflow parking near the medical center and I walked down to the starting area (while Trevor retreated to our hotel room to stay warm and work).
The race had several shuttles running from nearby hotels (just not ours of course). It was a chilly morning (around 30 degrees) but they had a large tent where packet pick up was going on and people congregated there to stay warm. I stayed in the tent with my jacket on until it was time to put my bag in gear check. Then I used the disposable jacket I got at MCM to supplement the arm sleeves and gloves I was wearing. There were plentiful port-a-pots at the starting line as well.
The number of runners was limited to 1,500 and the half and full marathon started at 7:30am with the blast of a cannon provided by the Marshall’s Tennessee Battery. The course was run on rural roads and in the National Park. The course was open to traffic but I can remember very few cars.
There were three areas where the half and full marathon course split, with the full marathoners doing a double loop of the park. There were race volunteers posted at each intersection and turn so it wasn’t confusing if you were paying attention.
The National Military Park was created to preserve the spot of the end of a Union offensive called the Chickamauga Campaign.
The Battle of Chickamauga was fought September 19-20, 1863 and was the most significant Union defeat and had the second highest number of casualties in the war (only behind Gettysburg). It was the first major battle fought in the state of Georgia. After 1890 Congress authorized the preservation of this national military park (along with three others). Chickamauga was the first and largest. More than 1,400 monuments, plaques and artillery pieces are displayed and are connected by a series of trails and roads.
The fall foliage was still present and it was a very scenic and peaceful place to run. As the morning wore on the weather warmed up unto the high 50’s so it was perfect marathon temperatures.
They had several pace groups for the half and full marathon. I ran with the 3:50 group until around mile 18. The pace leaders were excellent and kept the conversation flowing. There were six aid stations which were located every two miles (marathoners saw the same aid stations more than once). They offered water, sports drink, fruit, first aid supplies and bathrooms. They encouraged you to bring your own fueling supplies and I used my tried and true UCAN.
There were a few volunteers on bicycles and golf carts moving along the course too. The course was mostly on paved roads, some with a few broken up sections and a brief stretch of trails. There were 4-5 hills that the marathoners hit twice. Spectators were fairly sparse but there were some near each aid station. The race offered a free shuttle bus for spectators which stopped at three locations.
My goal for this race was to run a solid sub-4:00 marathon but not push myself since this was my third marathon in four weeks. I felt good and ran with the pace group until mile 18 at which point I started dropping behind on the hills. After that I contented myself with some solitude and enjoying the beautiful day.
After running Chicago and Marine Corps it was a nice change of pace to run a smaller more laid back marathon. In the later miles the course ran near a railroad track and I could hear the train whistle. It seemed to add to the ambiance of this beautiful and historic site. I wore my yellow plaid skirt with my yellow Maniac shirt and several people said I had the best outfit (certainly one of the the brightest).
The finish line was located back at the starting area and there was a decent sized crowd of people. I finished in 3:54:41and was given my medal and a logo water bottle. The medal is based on a different monument every year and this year it honored the Alabama soldiers.
The overall male winner was Jason Altman, age 35, with a time of 2:41:07. The female winner was Lillian Gilmer, age 41, with a time of 3:21:28. Later we found out that there was some controversy about the overall female winner.
Trevor met me at the finish line and took a few pictures. I wanted to get back to the hotel for a quick shower so we didn’t stay around long.
We stopped in Chattanooga on the way home for some great food at Terminal Brewhouse and walked around the downtown area a little. Then back in the car for a long drive home. Since we barely dipped our toes in Georgia we’ll have to get back one of these years for another marathon.
I’d definitely recommend the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon if you’re looking for a smaller, well-organized race in Georgia.
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