Note: I wrote this before the actual race, so take most of what I said and double it with regard to intensity after the 116 mile bike. ha.

Last week I went down to run one loop of the Ironman Chattanooga course and came up with 5 thoughts that might be able to help you if you haven’t had the chance. Make no mistake, this is a challenging Ironman marathon course, especially because the bulk of the hills are in the last five miles.

I tried to find some statistics on the run and found this page which says the median time for the run in my age group (50-54) was 4:51:25, while the median time average of other North American runs is 5:13:40.  I’m not sure what that says, but I’m sure it has something to do with the perfect weather and relative ease of the swim in comparison to most other courses.

Median swim time (50-54) at Chattanooga: 00:58:45  Other N. American races 1:21:29
Median bike time (50-54) at Chattanooga: 06:11:35  Other N. American races 06:29:28

Last year professional triathlete, Daniel Bretshcer, won Ironman Wisconsin, then took 2nd at Chattanooga in the same month.

His run times:

Wisconsin – 2:50:14
Chattanooga – 2:53:55

I’ve ran both of those courses and feel like they’re pretty comparable, though Chattanooga has a little more climbing.  I really enjoyed Chattanooga’s run course, but wish they would have figured out how to make it run through the downtown a little bit.  While the hills you face will be difficult, the long, desolate stretches of the Riverwalk will be a challenge in their own way.

Ironman Chattanooga Riverwalk section of the run.

Chattanooga Run Course – Breakdown

1.  The first challenge on the run course is . . . immediately.  The first mile is uphill, so be cautious of the fan energy that will surround you as you climb out of transition.

2.  The good news is, after your climb to the top of mile one, you’re in “the clear” for the next 7 miles or so.  You’ll run on the road for about 3 miles, then turn left to enter the Riverwalk and come back to where you started.  This is standard greenway stuff that parallels the river you swam in that morning.  I’m guessing it will be pretty desolate, so go inside and find your stride until mile 7.5.

3.  The last section of the Riverwalk isn’t brutal but it seems that way as you make your way back onto a side street hill that starts ripping your spirit away. It’s largely uphill and a good warm up for what’s ahead.

4.  Once you leave the Riverwalk, you’ll cross Veterans Bridge, which isn’t that steep, but it’s still a bridge.

5.  Around mile 9, you’ll clear the bridge and start the first Barton Avenue climb.  If you don’t know what’s coming your first thought will be, “Holy Shit!”  The hill stares right into your battered eyes and says I’ll be here for the next half mile, so suck it up.  It looks pretty intimidating in a car, but when I ran it it didn’t seem too awful.  That said, I run a lot of hills.

6.  Once at the top, you’ll have about the same distance of descent on the backside and curl left on Hixson Pike to tackle another climb that is almost identical to the one you just did on Barton Avenue.

7.  At the top of Hixson Pike you turn right and will have to suck it up for a couple hundred more yards to conquer a short, but pretty steep section.

8.  You’ll now be back in a neighborhood and descending for about .3 miles before hitting another short, but tough little climb.  Then it’s downhill and flat until you get back to Barton Avenue and the toughest section of the run course.

9.  You turn left to head back up the first descent you took on Barton Avenue and at this point in the game it is a beast.  It’s a good half mile up, then you crest and immediately start blasting downhill to the river.

10.  Instead of going back over the bridge you’ll take a right and go into North Chattanooga on your way to the pedestrian bridge.  There’s a little climb here, but not too bad.

11.  The first sight of the pedestrian bridge may freak you out a little, too, because it looks like bitch of a climb.  It is a very long bridge and running on planks made if feel a little tougher to me.  Did I mention it is long?  You’ll see family and friends so this part should be great, but then you’ll circle away from the bridge and get to do all of this again.  Enjoy!


Ironman Chattanooga Swim Entrance which you will pass again on your run.

Saving energy in the swim will help your hilly Ironman Chattanooga run later in the day. Check out the C26 Swim Stroke analysis video below. It’s simple, fast, and effective . . .and it’s never too late to dial in your swim stroke.

Ironman Chattanooga Run Course – 11 Thoughts