Run Chattanooga Is Not Your Average Running Club

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Free, Fun Fitness Movement Motivates The Community

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 a.m., fitness-minded people get together in downtown Chattanooga to work out together for free. They call it Tough Love, a fitness flashmob, hosted by Run Chattanooga, a running club that promotes with hashtags like #FREE and #endorphins. It’s exercise meets social media meets, as they put it, building community.

The designated workout location is promoted on Facebook (www.facebook.com/runnooga) and Twitter (@runchattanooga) the day before the workout. They’ve done burpees by the Chattanoogan hotel and pushups at the Hunter Museum, run stairs on Ross’ Landing and done crunches at UTC. Sometimes they are in a park and sometimes they just pick a street corner with some curbs to jump up on or benches to use for dips.  

One participant cites his favorite workout they’ve done as the Winter Olympics-themed Sochi-Nooga, which included running up the hill at Renaissance Park and ‘sledding’ down on a cardboard box. 

Nobody gets left behind because the workouts are done in circuits and there is always someone nearby to give a high five or encourage people to push harder. They don’t get bored because no two workouts are ever the same, said officials. 

Run Chattanooga founder Courtney Bird says there is an intimidation factor that comes with joining a gym or a traditional running club, and this is one way that they are trying to break down those barriers. Going to a workout costs nothing. Parking in metered spaces is even free at that hour. There are no contracts to sign and no membership fees to pay, so there’s no pressure. Participants don’t have to already be in shape, because they can scale the workout to any ability. Their flyers even advertise welcoming ‘athlete-wannabes.’ Everyone is encouraged to just show up and jump right in.

“You just do what you can do, at the speed you can do it," said Kim Sissom, who has been a regular participant at the Tough Love workouts since they began several months ago. "Then the next time, you try to do one more rep or go a little faster. There’s a really positive vibe with the whole thing. Everyone cheers each other on.  Someone usually takes a few pictures and they get posted on Twitter and the Run Chattanooga Facebook page. We all get to be a star online from time to time, so that’s fun too.”

To keep track of how their fitness is progressing, once a month they race up and down the stairs at AT&T Field and then do a lap of the hill on 3rd Street, seeing how many rounds of that combination they can do in 25 minutes. They're racing only against themselves, but they use each other as motivation.  

“The slower people are working hard to try to keep up with the faster people," said former college track athlete Katie Stanford, who is now the cross country coach at Covenant College and one of the fastest at the Run Chattanooga events.  "The faster ones are pushing to go even faster so that they don’t get caught.  Because the Tough Love workouts stay in one area, as opposed to a group run where people can get spread out, everyone gets a little something different out of it but we can all work out together.” 

Run Chattanooga is a fitness movement that started several months ago. Founder Courtney Bird will be the first to tell you that it’s not a typical running club. In fact, there are people who join them who don’t consider themselves runners at all. “They are just people who want to be active and enjoy the camaraderie and accountability,” she explains. “The reason it works is because we nurture and promote this positive atmosphere, we're not afraid to get a little goofy and fun, and it has attracted some fantastic people who, up until they find us, had mostly be running or working out alone. We’re not competing with each other, but we do challenge each other to reach our own individual goals - whatever those may be. And we celebrate with each other when we reach a new level.” 

Run Chattanooga hosted a free 5K flashmob run - the Bun Run - on the Saturday before Easter. Ms. Bird told everyone prior to the race that Run Chattanooga events have some strict rules. “You cannot leave without having made a new friend. You have to high five at least one person. And you have to have fun.” Runners and walkers made their way through downtown Chattanooga wearing bunny ears, high fiving unsuspecting passersby, and having fun while being active.  

The positivity and high fives are a staple of the Run Chattanooga culture now. When they are running in a group, they will high five other runners that aren’t part of their group. If they are doing a Tough Love workout and a runner comes by, many will stop what they are doing, get over to the sidewalk, and hold out a hand for a high five. "Lots of people in this area run alone and will avert their eyes when they cross paths with another runner or walker," Ms. Bird says. "So giving out lots of high fives is part of how we are working to build a community. We're all connected because we're all being active."

Run Chattanooga hosts group runs with the staff of Front Runner Athletics several days during the week, but Ms. Bird admits that the Tough Love workouts are her favorite. “I’m not a morning person. None of us are. I’d much rather sleep in. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself bouncing out of bed looking forward to doing planks and push ups. I still get shocked by that!" She laughs. "Not only have I gotten stronger and lost weight, but I’ve made so many new friends and gotten to meet so many interesting people that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise, simply because of these workouts.”  

To find out where the next Tough Love workout is, follow Run Chattanooga on Facebook (www.facebook.com/runnooga) or Twitter @runchattanooga.


Heroin, Buprenorphine Drug Busts On The Rise In Tennessee

Tennessee’s nearly half-decade long effort, dedicated to limiting easy access to prescription pain medications and similar opioid-based narcotics, has been successful, officials said. Since 2012 the state has seen a steady decline in the use and abuse of these substances commonly prescribed by family physicians. 2015 drug seizure data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House Bids Farewell To Their Last Telethon

Ronald McDonald House Charities, a “home away from home” for families of sick and injured children, will be hosting their last Telethon partnered with WTVC-NewsChannel 9 on March 5, from 7-11 p.m. Officials said the purpose for the Telethon is to highlight donor contributions from 2015 and to encourage viewers to call-in and make a donation. There will also be family and volunteer ... (click for more)

Firefighters Stop Fire At Local IHOP Restaurant

Chattanooga firefighters did not have far to go when fire broke out at the IHOP on Highway 153 in Hixson around  9 a.m.  on Friday. Battalion Chief Don Bowman and firefighters with Quint 16 had just enjoyed a nice breakfast there while having a morning staff meeting. When the firefighters returned to their fire truck and were getting ready to drive off, one of the firefighters ... (click for more)

City Councilman Chris Anderson Gearing Up For Election A Year Away

City Councilman Chris Anderson is already gearing up for the next city election, though it is over a year away. In the financial disclosures due Feb. 1, he reported receiving $24,165 for the reporting period from July 16, 2015 to Jan. 16, 2016. He spent $4,887 during that period. Councilman Yusuf Hakeem took in $11,110 during the period. Councilman Russell Gilbert reported ... (click for more)

Black History Month Hero - Theodore McGraw (Kidd) AKA "Pongee"

I grew up in "Old St. Elmo" on 39th Street behind the Incline. As a child I remember my older brother "Pongee" as being my hero. This month of February being Black History Month, I cannot think of a better person to be honored than my late older brother, Theodore McGraw (Kidd) aka "Pongee" of St. Elmo (Gamble Town). Growing up without my father, Theodore was always available ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Chatt2.org’ Needs You Now

A diverse yet powerful panel of community leaders in Nashville delivered a letter to the Metro Nashville Board of Education last week. It was signed by some top men and women who represent a wide-ranking cross section of Tennessee’s largest city and includes education, business, religious and diversity superstars. You need to understand the urgency behind the letter. Davidson County ... (click for more)