On June 22, hundreds of runners will convene in Benton to tackle towering stacks of hay, muddy trenches draped in barbed wire, and other grimy obstacles along a 5K race known as The Conquest. Heats take off in the morning and continue throughout the day along a course that gets muddier and more challenging with each group of runners. After the final heat, participants can attend an after party to recount the day’s fun amid live tunes from Calling Glory.
What is now the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary was once the Walker family farm, where highly respected naturalist and Chattanooga Audubon Society founder Robert Sparks Walker was born in 1878. Walker formed the Chattanooga Audubon Society in 1944, with a vision of educating citizens on the importance of protecting the environment and respecting nature the way the area's Native Americans had for thousands of years.
Today, the society is the steward of three sanctuaries: Elise Chapin Sanctuary at Audubon Acres, Maclellan Sanctuary on Audubon Island, and David Gray Sanctuary on Audubon Mountain. Each offers a unique look into the history, wildlife, and natural splendor of the area as well as educational programs that help children and adults discover the area.
At Tap 'N' Run, runners aren't out to claim the title of Fastest Runner. They're out to claim titles such as Best 'Stache, Celebrity Look-A-Like, or Largest Squad. That's because this 4K is a fun run in the truest sense: 21-and-over participants can run, walk, skip, or even potato-sack to the three beer stands set up along the course. They're given a 5-ounce brew at each and another 12-ounce bottle at the finish line. After using their finisher's medal to crack open that last beer (yes, it's also a bottle opener), they can head to the afterparty in hopes of claiming one of those race-day superlatives. One of the most sought-after awards is Most Unique Team Concept, as everyone's invited to dress up in costumes that at previous races have ranged from superheroes to ice-cream cones to runners running a race.
"Tread softly," say players on Insane Paintball’s outdoor forts course. No matter how careful you are on the ground, opponents likely lurk atop the field’s 14 one- and two-story buildings, waiting to strike on the unsuspecting players below. More buildings tower above the wooded field, where teams can take cover behind mounds and old, paint-splattered cars.
Those pellets fire from Insane Paintball’s semi-automatic rental guns, part of gear packages that include face masks and compressed-air bottles. Snacks await players after long stretches of recreational, scenario, or tournament games, as do shopping sprees inside an on-site 3,500-square-foot retail store. Besides stocking new gear, the store hosts certified technicians, who repair malfunctioning equipment such as guns that only let players load crayon nubs.
At first, The Great Pumpkin Race doesn't seem too different from any other 5K: runners take their marks and dash to the finish line. But before they can cross that line, they must swap their inner athlete for their inner artist. The race's finale requires participants grab and gut a pumpkin, and then create an original carving. Only with their newly designed pumpkin in tow can they consider their race completed. That night, The Great Pumpkin Race's runners and spectators gather to watch the lighting of the day's jack-o'-lanterns.
It's not every 5K run in which participants look like they've been tie-dyed by the end of it. But most runs are not this much fun either. As runners put one foot in front of the other during Color My Run, volunteers cover them with colorful dust, adding extra joy and a bit of silliness to an event where your finishing time isn't everything. That sense of joy also extends to the charitable recipient of each event as well, which is often a children's hospital.