I’m on this quest to run a 5K in every state, and I’m not really a runner. For those just tuning in, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer, which was a frightening and life-changing event, but I’m now 2 ½ years cancer-free and working on my Life List. Most would call it a bucket list, but that term doesn’t sit right with me, so Life List it is. I needed to inject some exercise into my sedentary life, and I missed traveling something awful, so I decided to throw “5K in every state” on the List. Stay physically fit and see the entire country while I do it. Super!
I knocked out a few states right off the bat: my first 5K was in my home state of North Carolina, next was a nice little trail run in Wisconsin while visiting family, and then I took a long weekend to South Beach with a friend and did a 5K through the Miami Zoo. How cool is that? But that was all a while ago, and if left unchecked, I’ll fuse to the sofa before you can say Netflix. A good friend told me I better get moving, and so I did.
I planned a ridiculous “three 5Ks in three states in three days” trip, and I actually convinced a friend to join me. Truthfully, she took pity on me. This junk isn’t even on her list, so she’s crazier than I am, right? I joke. Kathy made it clear she was not running anywhere, but she was coming along to have fun (yay!), and to be sure I didn’t get lost somewhere on my way from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Chattanooga to Atlanta, or Atlanta to Birmingham. Basically, to be an awesome friend.
So I sent her the itinerary and off we went. Kathy confessed at the close of our tour that she thought I had lost my marbles and there was no way that schedule was going to fly, but it did. Mostly. The one fault in my planning was not allowing enough time for the beast that is called Atlanta. The airport. The Disney-long line at Thrifty car rental. The TRAFFIC. So we were behind schedule from the get-go. Here’s what the first day was supposed to look like:
1:15 PM Land at ATL
1:45 On the road to Chattanooga, TN
4:00-6:45 Check in at hotel and explore Chattanooga
6:45 On the road to Dayton, TN
8:00 YMCA Funky Monkey 5K in Dayton
9:00 On the road to Chattanooga
10:00 Dinner in Chattanooga
Since we were a couple of hours late out of Atlanta, we didn’t get to see Chattanooga at all on Friday. We blew into town and barely had time to drop our bags at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, change into running gear, and hit the road to Dayton 45 minutes North for the YMCA Funky Monkey 5K Glow Run. The Choo Choo was a disappointment, but the only let-down of the entire trip, so success in my book. I had great expectations for the train depot once called Terminal Station turned vacation complex in 1973 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The lobby, which is what used to be the old train station, is gorgeous. Hotel 3—not so much. Once you are welcomed into the grand opulence of the hotel lobby, you are given a map, directed to get in your car and travel to Hotel 1, Hotel 2, or Hotel 3, none of which looked anything like a train station. Hotel 3 brought to mind “Orange is the New Black.” But we weren’t spending much time there anyway, so what the heck.
We drove into Dayton with just enough time to circle around town searching for the race, to ask directions from folks who could not comprehend that we were not from there and had no idea where 3rd Street, the florist, or the funeral home were, and finally made our way to the event. Persistence. I got my glow on (one yellow tube around my neck—the Y kids wrapped themselves head-to-toe), and pop went the start gun! This was an 8pm run on a flat course with a cool temp. I ran the entire 5K (only the 2nd time ever) and came in with my best time ever by 10 minutes with a time of 33:57! I never thought I would do better than 40:00. I struggle that much. But, no time for celebrating–I caught my breath, and we high-tailed it back to Chattanooga to the Terminal Brewhouse for some food and drink. After running 3 miles, inhaling a hefty black bean burger and a glass of red wine, Hotel 3 didn’t seem so bad.
The next morning we finally saw a little bit of the city. Chattanooga is nestled in a valley between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau with a population of about 175,000. We checked out Coolidge Park which is part of the Tennessee Riverwalk, a 15-mile long public greenway that runs along the Tennessee River. The park is beautiful with a 100-year-old restored carousel and an interactive water feature. The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge is near the park entrance, and you get a great view from the bridge.
While we were at the park, we happened upon the Skyhoundz Word Championship disc competition, which had me beside myself, and then one of the competitors was a rescue dog! I had to take a moment and pull myself together. Seriously. Those dogs were incredible!
From there we walked to an adorable little art gallery, Tangerinas, and then drove to the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar. If you remember nothing else, remember this. We dined on the deck overlooking the Tennessee River and the Riverwalk. The menu was vast, with lunch options from a $6 Wedge Salad to a $30 Wood Grilled Rib Eye. The Catfish Poboy dialed my number. It was served with slaw and fries, and I added Wood Fired Okra. You need to pay attention here: if anyone ever offers you wood fired okra, you take it and you never look back! That stuff was plain good food. It had the smokey wood-fired flavor, was slightly charred, and had a pinch of salt and olive oil. It was tender, it was flavorful, it was delicious. I can’t say enough about it. The catfish was excellent, and my meal was around $15 (because I added the okra). The place was fairly busy, yet the owner came over to check on our food and ask if we had been before and where we were from. He then came back a few minutes later to chit-chat, and then the chef came out to see if we were enjoying our meal. For $15! Repeat in your mind over and over “Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar…Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar…”
No sooner did we finish lunch and it was time to make our way back to Atlanta because the itinerary said so. I can’t say enough about Chattanooga and wish we had more time to take it all in. It is gorgeous! I’d love to go back some day, but I’ve got 44 5Ks in 44 other states and just two legs. Next up is Atlanta!
Tip: Eat at the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar and the Terminal Brewhouse, but if you must choose, definitely the Boathouse.
Tip: Check out Coolidge Park along the Tennessee River with a restored historic carousel and interactive water feature. It sits below the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the park and the city.
Tip: Check out Tangerinas studio across from Coolidge Park. An aunt/niece duo making art from recycled materials. I little piece came home with me!