By Doug Hawley
Organizers are expecting nine states to be represented Saturday at the fourth annual Dalton Red Carpet races, where the action — which starts and finishes downtown — will include a half marathon, 5K and 2K.
“I feel sure that it’s the most states that we’ve had represented for this event,” said co-race director Rick Little. “It’s become so well-known. People outside our area know that it’s a quality event.”
Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are expected to have residents competing Saturday. Most of those participants outside Georgia are coming to run the 13.1-mile half marathon.
Runners in the half marathon and 5K, a 3.1-mile race, will line up for the 8 a.m. start at the intersection of West King and Selvidge streets.
“What also has helped is that this is the final event for the regional USTF (U.S. Track and Field) series,” Little said. “Those runners earlier ran 5K and 10K races leading up to this one.”
Co-race director David Sanders is projecting between 1,100 and 1,300 participants across the three races.
“Two years ago, we had our record number of 1,300,” Sanders said. “Last year, we had about 1,000. I think that we’ll beat that number.”
There is a distinct increase of entries in the feature event, the half marathon.
“At last count, we had 350,” Sanders said. “Last year, we had about 250. At this time, the number is way up outside our immediate area.”
Chattanooga’s Geno Phillips set an event record last year with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 8 seconds. He averaged 5:30 per mile over the rolling course. Alpharetta’s Ingrid Louw set the women’s record in 1:23.14, a 6:21 per-mile average. Both Phillips and Louw were 41.
Phillips originally said he would not be back to defend his crown but recently indicated a possible change of heart. Louw’s status is uncertain.
Cohutta’s Dean Thompson, 48, and a well-known veteran of the area road race scene, won the first two Dalton Red Carpet Half Marathons before finishing third a year ago. He has registered to return.
The half marathon participants will get scenic look at Dalton. The journey encompasses Hamilton Street, Thornton Avenue, Walnut Avenue, Tibbs Road, the north bypass and U.S. 41.
“The weather is going to be a lot better than people originally thought,” Sanders said. “It won’t be sub-freezing. It’s supposed to be more like 37 at the start and will gradually get warmer. That is great weather for the runners.”
The 2K (1.2-mile run) is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the confines of downtown Dalton.
“It’s difficult to say how many 5K runners we’ll have,” Sanders said. “We’re making a big push for the kids in the 2K.”
Those who have not yet registered can still do so at the race site on Saturday, when the entry fees are $65 for the half marathon, $25 for the 5K and $15 for the 2K.
Awards are tentatively set for 10:45 a.m., with medals and T-shirts going to all participants.
The Liberty Tree BBQ and Music Festival and its platinum sponsors, Engineered Floors and Marketing Alliance, have partnered with the race to provide food and music beginning at noon. Half marathon and 5K performers will have two free tickets for the 7 p.m. concert by Fastball.
Primary overall sponsorship of the races comes from Alliant Health Plans.
Advanced registrants can pick up their packets at Bradley Wellness Center from noon until 6 p.m. today.
Proceeds from the races benefit two local charities — City of Refuge, which offers services for homeless and financially troubled residents, and Family Promise of Whitfield County, which works with area churches to provide shelter, food and support to homeless families with children.