Sept. 20 will be a special day for the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Natural History Museum and Visitors Center at the Gray Fossil Site with the first running of the Fossil 5K.
Being held to benefit and support its education programs and museum exhibitions and highlight a yearly event celebrated each year — International Red Panda Day — the 9 a.m. race will bring runners around the site and through local residential communities and country roads and loop back to a conclusion near the start. We Run Events, a Tri-Cities running company that puts on and times races, is in charge of laying out and managing the course.
Jennifer Hodge-Barber, marketing manager with the Fossil Site, said Gray doesn’t have many races and is ripe for a fundraising event that highlights the site as an educational asset to the area. Many members of the fossil site’s staff have recently participated in races and thought they should put one on themselves.
“There aren’t a whole lot of races going on here,” Hodge-Barber said.
She said Dr. Blaine Schubert, the museum’s director, will be running with participants in the race.
“We are excited to host a 5K in Gray because we want to highlight the region’s tie to the fossil site, and we want to invite visitors to make the short drive to the museum to see the amazing scientific discoveries right in our backyard,” he said.
After the race, everyone who participates will receive free admission to the post-run events, which has free talks about red pandas and their significance to the region, guided tours, kids’ activities and more.
One of the talks will come from ETSU’s Dr. Steven Wallace, whose expertise involves red pandas. Wallace said he’ll give an overview and explain just how important ETSU’s fossil site is in the historical research of the creatures. Worldwide, Wallace said, the fossil site in Gray has the best and most complete red panda skeletons.
Hodge-Barber and the staff at the fossil site are hoping people sign up for the race through www.runtricities.org ahead of time for $20, before the entry fee goes up Sept. 17. Early registration will also guarantee participants a race T-shirt. Packet pickup for the run will take place Sept. 19 from 5-6 p.m. and from 7-8:30 the morning of the race.
Hank Brown with We Run Events said the course is somewhat hilly, but is a fair example of how it is to run in Gray, calling the race layout “beautiful.” He said working with the fossil site has been great.
“They know how to put on events,” Brown said.
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