(Submitted Photo: A local youth competes in the last year’s XTERRA Parks of Alabama Trail Run Series race at Noccalula Falls Park.)
By Kaitlin Fleming
Black Squirrel Events is set to host the 2018-2019 XTERRA Parks of Alabama Trail Run Series kickoff race on Sept. 29 at Noccalula Falls Park and Campground in Gadsden.
The event is the first of six races in the Alabama Trail Run Series. The next races in the series will be held at Red Mountain Park on Oct. 20, Lake Guntersville State Park on Nov. 3, Desoto State Park on Dec. 8, Coldwater Mountain on Jan. 19 and Cheaha State Park on Feb. 9.
Glenn Ingram with Black Squirrel Events said that the race series is all about getting outdoors and enjoying the beautiful parks Alabama has to offer.
“We have one of the best training trails in the state right here in Gadsden,” said Ingram. “Noccalula has the best trail. It is beautiful, and its change of elevation and overall runnability makes for a great training trail. If you can run this trail, you can run any trail in the state.”
The 15K and 8K races taking place at Noccalula Falls Park will draw more than 150 runners from all walks of life. Medals and prizes will be awarded to overall top three male and female finishers for each race, along with top male and female Masters 40-49 and Grand Masters 50-plus. There also will be medals awarded for the top three male and female finishers in each age group, including 14 and up, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70 and up.
“Regardless of your age or speed, you’ll be lapping everyone on the couch,” said Ingram.
The Gadsden race will offer a mixture of single-track trails, small stream crossings, gravel paths and wooded bridges.
Karl Strain with Black Squirrel Events and Kyuka Water noted that the goal of the race series is to continue to grow the running community and to continue giving back to the parks.
“At every race, we give $2 back to the parks,” said Strain. “On average, 50 percent of the racers have never been to the parks we run at. We hope to make them comfortable enough with the parks that they come back and visit them.”
Last season, XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series gave over $1,500 in revenue to local and state parks. This year, the goal is to double that amount.
“The best part of all of this for me is the people,” said Ingram. “The people make it worth it, and giving back to the community, getting outside and staying active is really important.”
Strain and Ingram hope to also bring in mountain bikers to the local parks. On Sept. 8, Black Squirrel Events welcomed bikers to the first Noccalula Falls Duathlon, which was the first mountain bike race held at the local park.
“We couldn’t do this without our sponsors,” said Strain. “Gadsden Etowah Tourism, Nissan of Gadsden, NEO Northeast Orthopedics, McClellan Family Chiropractic, Gadsden Outfitters, Back Forty Beer Company, Kyuka Water, Bama Graphics and Copeland Law Firm are great sponsors.”
Information packets for the XTERRA race series can be picked up on Friday, Sept. 28 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at Gadsden Outfitters and Subs Unlimited located at 1009 South 4th Street in Gadsden. Packets may also be picked up the morning of the race from 6:30 – 7:30 a.m. at Noccalula Falls and Campground. The race begins at 8 a.m.
There is an entry fee for the races, which includes the cost of a soft cotton race t-shirt and a chance to win a special edition XTERRA Alabama Rtic 20 cooler. Pre-registration is encouraged for the races. The entry fee for preregistration for the 15K Trail Run is $40 and race day registration for the 15K race is $45. Entry fee for pre-registration for the 8K Trail Run is $35 and race day registration for the 8K race is $40.
For more information on the XTERRA Alabama Trail Series, visit xterraplanet.com/trailrun/alabama-series.