Tenth Anniversary of Mountain Goat Trail Race

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

Tracy City’s Lanny Bell, 76, has run in every Mountain Goat Trail Race since the first one 10 years ago and has a T-shirt for each one.

Bell, who’s lived in Grundy County for most of his life, graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1970 from Tennessee Tech.

“I was at a Tennessee Tech basketball game when they read off the draft lottery and called out the birthdays,” he said. “They drew days of the year out of a hat, and that’s the only thing I ever won. I didn’t even interview for a job — the next month I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.”

Getting drafted prompted him to immediately get in shape.

“I started running in the backyard of the house I was living in at Cookeville because I knew I was going to basic training,” he laughed. It would be another two decades before he signed up to run in his first official race — the Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Alabama.

From his home off Pigeon Springs Road, he has watched the Mountain Goat Trail go in from the beginning.

“They started between Sewanee and Monteagle,” Bell said, “and then they came to Tracy City and started paving back toward Monteagle. There was some property in between that they had trouble getting in their name, but, now, as I understand it, it’s all been taken care of — it’s all been purchased, and it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps there. That will get us from Tracy to Sewanee — all paved — hopefully in the next year or so.”

Bell’s run in all nine of the Mountain Goat Trail races since the beginning a decade ago. (The race was cancelled in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic.)

“Done ‘em all,” he said, “and two of the half-marathons. I’m gonna attempt to do that again this time. My goal is to finish without stopping. I’m always glad just to survive. For the last month, I’ve been out here — either riding the bicycle one day or jogging the next.”

His attachment to the Mountain Goat Trail stems not only from living very close to where the trail crosses Pigeon Springs Road, but also because of family memories.

“My dad used to work on the train here, so that was a tie to it,” he said.

He also enjoys biking on the trail from Tracy City to Monteagle with his grandchildren.

“It’s a great thing,” he said. “A lot of locals use it, and then you meet people from different places who come through there.”

Mountain Goat Trail Executive Director Patrick Dean believes the trail offers many benefits to the mountain community.

“First of all, there are the health and recreational benefits for the people who live here,” Dean said. “The topography of the mountain adds to the fact that there are not many safe, separated places to ride a bike or push a stroller safely.”

Dean said three infrared trail counters — one in Sewanee, one in Tracy City, and one in Monteagle — show about 45,000 visits a year.

“Locals use them all the time,” Dean said. “If you spend any time on the trail, you know that it’s everybody — it’s all ages, all types of families. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

“There’s a proven economic development aspect to it too, especially the longer the trail gets, the more people will come from elsewhere to ride on the trail. When people come from Nashville or Atlanta or someplace, they’ll eat out, they’ll spend the night, they’ll bring economic impact to the area.”

Dean joined the board in late 2011, although the nonprofit itself began back in 2006.

“We started talking about everything that we did — the website, social media presence, grant writing, and all that — so we quickly threw me off the board and hired me as a staff member,” Dean said, who’s been with the trail ever since. “I became the executive director in 2015, and I’m still the only paid staffer. We do have a very good board that does a lot of hard work, so I’m by no means a lone agent.”

Current Mountain Goat Trail Alliance board officers are President Nate Wilson; Vice President and Co-Treasurer Dede Clements; Vice President Jessica Favaloro; and Secretary Deb McGrath. Also serving on the board are Doug Cameron, John Clark, Will Reynolds, Emily Partin, Louis Rice III, Chris Roberts, and Barry Rollins.

Dean clarified that while it’s the 10th anniversary of the race’s start in 2014, this year is not technically the 10th race because of Covid.

“The first race was quite an adventure,” he said. “The second section of the trail that was built between Sewanee and Monteagle was not finished, and so that first year we actually had people running on the highway between Highway 156 — the yellow light where St. Andrew’s-Sewanee is — and Mountain Outfitters. I can’t believe we did that now.”

Mountain Outfitters has been the major sponsor of the race since the beginning.

“When we first started the race, David Burnett, who’s one of the founders of Mountain Outfitters, had pushed for this race,” Dean said. “He really wanted to promote the trail and support it however he could. Ever since then, Mountain Outfitters has been the main sponsor of the race, and they’ve been wonderful supporters.

“They provide the shirts — usually they’re top quality, Patagonia or North Face. They also have the famous drawing after the race where if you register, you get two tickets for the drawing. We also sell tickets. After the race, they give away all sorts of incredible gear — running shoes, trail shoes, Yeti coolers, backpacks — it’s quite the community event. People look forward to it. We are very grateful to Mountain Outfitters for their huge support of this race and the trail.”

Dean said last year’s race had close to 200 entrants.

“Once the guns go off, my job is pretty much over,” Dean said, “but it’s still so much fun to watch it all unfold. I’m going back and forth between the various start places and all that to see these people streaming down the trail — you got your serious racers, people who are just out there cruising and having fun, people walking their dogs and chatting and everything — this one day, it’s just a lot of fun.

“I think we are all very gratified that the larger community thinks of the Mountain Goat Trail as a really good asset — a very worthwhile thing to happen on the mountain,” Dean said. “It’s very gratifying to be part of a project that so many people seem to like and appreciate and enjoy using.”

This year’s race is set for Saturday, March 30. The half-marathon begins at 8 a.m. at Mountain Outfitters; the two-mile walk begins at 10:15 a.m. at La Bella Pearl’s Restaurant, and the five-mile run begins at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Sewanee. All three races finish at Mountain Outfitters.

To register in advance, go to


Packet pickup is noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 29, at Tower Bank in Monteagle or 6:45-7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 30, at Mountain Outfitters.

Runners and walkers may also register at all three start places on the day of the race, Dean added.

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