A marathon in the U.S. state of Tennessee has been named in honor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church after local church leaders decided to sponsor the annual event.
The rebranded “Seventh-day Adventist 7 Bridges Marathon” in the city of Chattanooga provides a good match with the Adventist emphasis on health and will provide an opportunity to share Jesus in the community, said the new title sponsor, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
“As Seventh-day Adventists, our unique message of hope and wholeness combined with our emphasis on a healthy lifestyle makes this a natural partnership,” conference president Ed Wright said in a statement. “We are honored to serve our community in this way.”
Wright, who ran in the marathon last year, signed a sponsorship agreement with the organizer, Scenic City Multisport, for an unspecified amount late last month.
“Our partnership is such a great fit,” said Ken Radley, race director at Scenic City Multisport. “The Adventists stand out on being mindful of their health: Exercise and avoidance of harmful substances lead to clear minds and wise choices.”
The race, previously known only as 7 Bridges Marathon, consists of four running events: the 26.2-mile marathon, a 13.1-mile half-marathon, a 5K run, and a “Kiddie-K” fun run for children 12 and under. Participation has tripled since it started in 2010, from 900 registered runners to nearly 2,500 last year.
Wright said he hoped that Chattanooga’s thriving Adventist community would use the marathon as a chance to offer health-related entry events and build new relationships with neighbors.
Chattanooga, population 170,000, has a significant Adventist presence in and near the city, with 29 congregations, Southern Adventist University, Collegedale Academy, six elementary schools, and other facilities.
One opportunity to harness the marathon’s name might come with “Impact Chattanooga,” an evangelistic series that will be held around the time of the Oct. 18 race. The meetings led by John Bradshaw from It Is Written television at 13 area churches are scheduled for Oct. 9 to 24.
The Georgia-Cumberland Conference, which is based in Calhoun, Georgia, and encompasses Georgia, and parts of North Carolina, and Tennessee, has not decided how to link the race and the evangelistic meetings, conference communication director Tamara A. Fisher said Wednesday.
“Our goal is to educate people to the name Seventh-day Adventists and who we are,” she said. “There are so many Adventist organizations in this area, and we want to work together. We are in the process of gathering a steering committee to determine how this will all work.”
She said she had never heard of any other marathon named after the Adventist Church. The marathon did not have a title sponsor last year.
Church leaders were tipped off about the sponsorship opportunity by a teacher at Collegedale Academy, Stan Beasley, who led a group of student volunteers in staffing the marathon’s 26 aid stations last year.
The marathon takes runners across the Tennessee River six times and is a qualifying race for the better known Boston Marathon.
“I ran in the race last year and loved it,” said Wright, the conference president. “The scenery on the course, the crisp fall weather, the historic bridges, the outstanding level of volunteer support, the enthusiasm of runners and community — this event has all the qualities needed to become a Top Ten Marathon.”