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Marathon leads runners into the Boonies

The Boonies, a wilderness trail running association, will host the Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon May 23 to raise funds for maintaining local trials.

Randy and Kris Whorton created the Boonies in 2006 for themselves and other off-road runners in Chattanooga.

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Rock/Creek marketing director Mark McKnight, Boonies treasurer Kris Whorton and Boonies president Randy Whorton, from left, are organizing the Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon May 23 to get their fellow runners out on the trail.

“Our opinion is it’s a healthier form of running,” said Boonies president Randy Whorton, “but most other people’s conception is that it is more hazardous.”

The Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon begins at 8 a.m. at the Laurel Point Recreation Area on Raccoon Mountain. Registration costs $40 for the marathon and $35 for the half marathon. Packet pickup is May 22 at Rock/Creek at Two North Shore.

Whorton said registration automatically enters runners into the Boonies and funds are donated to various parks, organizations and trail maintenance efforts around Chattanooga.

Whorton said the Boonies began during their development to work with Rock/Creek to organize and sponsor events.

Mark McKnight, marketing director for Rock/Creek and communications coordinator for the Boonies, said he started trail running in college.

“I started because I was poor and for this you just need a pair of shoes,” McKnight said. “The Scenic City Marathon and Half Marathon is part of a trail series called the Rock/Creek Trail Series with 10 race dates throughout the year.”

Whorton said the Boonies meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at various trail heads and often during the weekends. He said a schedule of the runs can be found on the Web site at www.runintheboonies.org.

Whorton said many runners are afraid of running the trails initially because of tripping hazards and snakes, but he points out that road running has hazards such as moving vehicles and is harder on the joints and bones.

One mission of the Boonies is to help maintain trails around Chattanooga. The group recently finished a two-year project with the completion of 15 miles of a newly built trail connecting Lulu Lake to Cloudland Canyon. Whorton said runners can now travel from the base of the mountain starting at John Wilson Park on Scenic Highway to Cloudland Canyon in Georgia.

“That’s one of our goals — to raise money, awareness and volunteers to maintain trails saving the city money,” Whorton said. “Stringer’s Ridge is the next big project.”

Without the help of McKnight and Rock/Creek, Whorton said the organization would have been much slower to take hold in Chattanooga. However, now as an established organization with more than six major races a year, he said the Boonies is making a difference for athletes and residents who enjoy the outdoors.

“I think within a 30-minute drive of downtown Chattanooga there are 18 different trail heads with over 350 miles of trails,” Whorton said. “The adventures we have are really cool and we create some great memories.”

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