Don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that older folks can’t run fast. Running is one of those sports where you get stronger and faster as you get older.
If you’re not totally convinced, just look at the results from Saturday’s Great Pumpkin Run 10K, which was held at Moccasin Bend.
Geno Phillips and Dianna Leun were the overall winners, the 41-year-old Phillips running off and leaving everyone while posting a time of 33 minutes, 18 seconds, an average of 5:22 per mile.
The 40-year-old Leun ran her fastest 10K times ever as she finished 16th overall in 41:34, an average of 6:42 per mile.
Jacob Bradley was the runner-up in 34:11, but at the tender age of 22, he was the only runner in the top five less than 40.
Dean Thompson, age 47, was third in 34:46 while ageless Tim Ensign, still running strong at 49, was fourth in 35:29 and 51-year-old Joe Johnson fifth in 37:01.
Leun’s first 10K was on this course last year and she finished in 44:09, so Saturday’s time was substantially faster.
Kiersten Vradenburgh was the runner-up in 43:25, which was 18th overall, while Lisa Logan was the third female in 43:43, which was 20th overall.
Sue Barlow and Karin Maucere complete the top five ladies with times of 45:30 and 47:53, respectively.
Saturday’s race offers the fastest 10K course in Chattanooga or anywhere close for that matter as it is basically a flat, out-and-back route that passes the Moccasin Bend Golf Course and heads toward Pineville Road before making a U-turn at the halfway point and coming back.
Temperatures were just about ideal in the mid 40s and there was very little wind. Throw in colorful leaves from the side of Lookout Mountain, a few curious deer and even more wild turkeys and you had the ingredients for a perfect 6.2-mile race.
Phillips had posted his fastest 10K time on this course in 2005 when he claimed the first of three overall wins with a time of 32:55. He also won in 2006 before taking his third victory on Saturday.
Phillips, Bradley, Thompson and Ensign started together and passed the first mile marker in a somewhat conservative 5:27 pace. Phillips then started picking up the pace and the rest of the group couldn’t keep up as the veteran U.S. History teacher at Brown Middle School was alone alone at the finish.
“My goal today was to break 34 minutes, so I went out easy and steady,” he said while waiting for other runners to complete the distance.
“I picked it up after that and my last mile was my fastest,” he continued, noting that he had a 5:15 in the final stretch.
“We had a nice group at the first mile. I don’t think they ever slowed down, but I kept picking it up. I wanted to finish in the top three among masters today, but I’m trying to get ready for the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville,” Phillips added.
Saturday’s win was his second of the month after posting a time of 1:12 in winning the Red Carpet Half-Marathon in Dalton two weeks ago.
Bradley is a graduate of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School who ran for a time at Bryan College. He’s now a student at Chattanooga State majoring in construction engineering.
“I was trying to hit 5:30s at every mile, although I slowed down a little bit between the fourth and fifth mile. This could be a personal best for me, but my goal was to go out and try and hang with the lead pack.
“It got kind of spread out at the end, but I came and did what I wanted to do,” he explained.
Thompson and Ensign are best friends and intense competitors. Saturday was Thompson’s day in the spotlight.
“I felt better today than I have in several races. I think was about 10 seconds slower than last year, so I’m very satisfied. I had my eyes on Jacob, but just couldn’t quite close the gap. Geno was just a speck in the distance.
“Tim and I take turns deflating each other’s egos,” the Shaw Industry employee smiled.
This was two Saturday’s in a row for Leun to be victorious as she won the Ram Run 5K at OLPH last Saturday in 20:06. She’s only been running about six years and is currently training for her first marathon at Chickamauga on Nov. 10, but she continues to get faster and faster and her times keep dropping.
“I wasn’t smooth out there, but I did try to run fast,” the registered nurse at Erlanger explained after a post-race warmdown run.
“My goal was to be around 43 minutes and to win my age group. I feel like today’s win was a fluke as everyone who shows up to compete is a winner. I tried to stay with the group I started with and they kept me on pace.
“It was a beautiful day and I saw a ton of deer. I knew that Kiersten was right behind me, but I’m going to keep trying. Today was a good day for me,” she concluded with a smile.
Barlow is another who is currently marathon training as she is also pointing toward Chickamauga, but she’s also planning to run Sunday’s 7 Bridges Marathon. She’s been doing a lot of training and including some hilly courses, so she’s fit.
“I had nothing left at the end,” she said after finishing in 45:30.
“John Crawley has a kick and he was on my heels the whole way. I was set up big time as John passed me at the six-mile mark and Flash Cunningham was there to take his picture,” the 47-year-old physical therapist at Siskin laughed.
“I just want to break 3:30 at Chickamauga,” she added, noting that her previous best marathon is somewhere around 3:42.
Pat Hagan has run this race a bunch of times and he’s run more marathons than he cares to remember, but the 62-year-old finished 58th overall in 55:58 on Saturday and he was all smiles.
“I had a good one today as I ran negative splits. I try to get about 25 miles each week, but I remember a race I had here in 1987 when I ran 38 something two days after breaking three hours in the Atlanta Marathon,” he recalled.
DEFENDING CHAMPS Lanni Marchant and Patrick Hall were not present for Saturday’s race.
RACE PROCEEDS benefit the clients of the Johnson Mental Health Center, which in years past has also provided Christmas presents.
“These funds help in a number of ways. Some may be in transitional living and need help with an electric bill while someone else may be going for a job interview and needs a new pair of shoes. The money goes to a good cause,” said race director Doug Roselle afterward.
THE SIGNAL MOUNTAIN Pie Run 10K will be held next Saturday and will be a prediction run. It’s a no frills race, but the entry fee is just $10. It starts and finishes at the Old Signal Mountain Junior High on Ault Road and includes a couple of challenging hills in addition to some of the most spectacular scenery this time of year as the route runs along Palisades Road.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)