View of Buffalo Creek from new pedestrian bridge over the creek near Lions Field in Elizabethton.(Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
Based on his 5,000-meter personal best time, 13 minutes and 19 seconds, it’s possible that former East Tennessee State University “Irish Brigade” runner Ray Flynn could have completed a 4.3-mile stretch on the Tweetsie Trail from Lion’s Field to the Alabama Street start of the trail in just about 18 and a half minutes.
But Wednesday, Flynn and other organizers of the Tweetsie Trail, a 10-mile recreational trail between Johnson City and Elizabethton, were announcing a less competitive fun run set to take place on the opening day of the trail on Saturday, Aug. 30, over that 4.3-mile course called the Tweetsie Trail Trek.
Though Flynn knows the feel of the most competitive and elite races on Earth, having 89 sub-four minute miles to his name as well as having competed in two Olympic Games, this run he’s helped develop is not solely about competitive running as much it is a community event to kick off what he calls an asset to the area.
“We’re encouraging competitive runners to come, it’s really more the community, for the family, for people who are active and want to get out on the trail and it’s really for everybody,” Flynn said.
The logistics of a point-to-point course were a little tricky, Flynn said, but through a collaboration between Elizabethon and Johnson City, details were worked out and he expects a celebratory and smooth event to open the trail. Organizers are encouraging everyone to carpool if possible to cut down on the amount of vehicles parked at both Lion’s Field, the start, and Memorial Park Community Center, the finish and site of the post-run fun.
Shuttle buses will be provided for those who want to park at either location or Elizabethon High School and will start transporting participants at 6:30 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.
Every participant will receive an inaugural medal and t-shirt for the event, that says, “I did it first,” as well as refreshments and entertainment after the run closes out. Anyone who wants to run, walk or bike the trail after the runners and walkers go through is encouraged to take part in the historic event on the historic trail, said Flynn. A series of waves of participants starts with runners letting loose on the course at 8:30 a.m., with walkers following at 9 a.m., with cyclists going at noon.
Tupelo Honey Cafe, which will be opening soon in downtown Johnson City, is the title sponsor of the event.
Jenny Brock, Johnson City commissioner and chairman of the ever-popular Up and At ‘Em Turkey Trot, which draws several thousand participants each Thanksgiving, has helped with the planning committee for the run and said the trail and its opening event will pay off for both Johnson City and Elizabethton.
“We feel this will be something that will bring people to our community,” she told members of the media, the public and her fellow organizers on one of the bridges near Lion’s Field Wednesday during the press conference.
This particular Rails-to-Trails project will give the area the longest trail of its kind in the state when it’s completed, though a similar trail in Shelby County is set to go a bit longer in the near future. The scenery, Flynn said, puts this recreational trail as the nicest in the Tri-Cities.
“As you can see, the visuals, it’s a beautiful trail,” Flynn said. “I’ve been on it many times. I think it’s a wonderful trail to run on. We expect a wonderful turnout.”
Registration costs will be $20 for adults and $15 for students through Aug. 22, with a price increase of $5 from Aug. 23-29. Additional discounts will be offered to families of four or more ($20) and for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts ($12). Packet pickup will take place at the MPCC on Wednesday, Aug. 27, from 3-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 28, from 4-8 p.m., and on Friday, Aug. 29, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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