April 5, 2013

Running ever higher

Series adds event, growing stronger with passing years

By Devin Golden

— Last year, the Run for God race series grew when a new competition was added.

This year is no different.

The series begins next weekend with the Run at the Mill half marathon and 5K races, but added to the schedule is the Sticky Challenge. The team adventure race increases the variety offered through the series, which pushes the overall goal of giving as many people as possible a reason to become active and healthy as a way of worshiping God.

Run for God is a Christian-based, for-profit program that combines distance running training with Bible study. Started by Mitchell Hollis, a Dalton resident and member of Grove Level Baptist Church on Cleveland Highway, the program has spread across the nation. Hollis wrote and published a book, “Run for God,” and kickstarted the series two years ago.

Rene Koss, the social media marketing public relations coordinator with Run for God, said the common goal of the series is to “acknowledge that (God) gives us the strength and ability to run.”

“We can’t get our eyes off who we run for because then it becomes unhealthy and can become an idol in our lives,” said Koss, who became involved with the series as a runner in 2011.

The first two races were the Run at the Mill and the JFest 5K. Last year, the series was established when the Junior and Adult Sprint Triathlon was added. The Sticky Challenge is the latest addition.

“There’s obstacles — ice and mud,” Koss said of the new competition. “There are times you’ll have to help people get over obstacles. There’s also the additional part of answering trivia before you can advance. ... It came about as people’s diversity in running. So many people are getting into mud challenges because they like challenging themselves to diversity outside of just running on roads.”

The third-annual Run at the Mill will be Saturday, April 13, at 425 Prater’s Mill Road. The half marathon starts at 7 a.m. and costs $60 per individual. The 5K race starts at 9 a.m. and costs $35 per individual. Online registration ends at 10 p.m. Wednesday (www.runforgod.com) but runners still can register next Friday at Prater’s Mill from 4 to 8 p.m. or the day of the race from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m.

This race started as a graduation event for those who completed Hollis’ 5K Challenge, a 12-week training program with the end goal of completing a 5K race. In 2011, it included 500 competitors combined for the half marathon and 5K race. Last year, the number grew to 550.

“It started out at our church to support what it’s doing with bringing people closer to God and having a more healthy lifestyle,” said Mitchell Hayes, a Cohutta resident who will compete in three of the four races. “I think the talk is to make a trail race as well next year. I’ll definitely be participating in that.”

As more and more people became interested, organizers set out to offer different challenges.

“Each year they might add another race,” said Dean Thompson, a Cohutta resident who was the runner-up at the 2011 Run at the Mill. “The premise behind it was getting people off the couch and proving to people they can do tough things.

“The whole idea behind Run for God is to get people connected with their faith. Obviously, the more variety you have, the more people who will be included. There are people who won’t do a 10K race but may do a mud run or triathlon.”

The Sticky Challenge will take place May 11 at Tom Manis Road Northeast. The race begins at 8 a.m. with a team starting every two minutes. Registration closes May 8 at 10 p.m. and cost is $175 per team, with a maximum of five people on a team. There will not be race-day registration available.

The third-annual JFest 5K will be June 1 at 323 Camp Jordan Parkway in East Ridge, Tenn. The race begins at 8 a.m. and cost is $35 per individual. Online registration ends May 29 at 10 p.m. but race-day registration will be available before the race.

The second-annual Junior and Adult Sprint Triathlon will take place July 27 at 904 Civic Drive. The adults race begins at 7 a.m. and the juniors race is at 9:30 a.m. The Adult Super Swim includes a 300-meter swim, 12-mile bike ride and 2-mile run. The Intermediate and Senior Age 9-15 includes a 150-meter swim, 4-mile bike ride and 1-mile run. The Juniors class includes a 50-meter swim, 2-mile bike ride and half-mile run. Cost is $55 per individual, regardless of age. Online registration closes July 24 at 10 p.m and race-day registration will not be available.

While there aren’t any series standings for those who compete in multiple or all races, Koss said top finishers in each event receive a medal, and each race has a different-colored medal.

Koss said there will be a fifth race announced the week following the Run at the Mill, and it will take place in August.

“It will be a very unique race that will take place in Chattanooga,” she said.

For more information, visit the group’s website at www.runforgod.com.