Jason Altman and Hugh Enicks were both running with purpose Saturday morning and when they reached the finish line in their respective races, they had both accomplished their goals.
Altman won the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon for the second time in three years, crossing the line on Barnhardt Circle in two hours, 38 minutes and 52 seconds.
Altman spent most of 2011 sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury, but entered this race anyway. His lack of training caught up with him as he was passed in the last four miles and he had to settle for second place.
He wanted to make a point, proving that he’s a better runner than what he showed a year ago.
Just consider it a mission accomplished with a personal record to boot.
Enicks is the amazing 53-year-old stud who has won this marathon three times. He was looking for a three-peat in the half-marathon and he achieved that goal as he covered the 13.1-mile course in one hour, 19 minutes and 26 seconds.
Chattanooga’s Ryan Shrum was the marathon runner-up with a personal-best time of 2:56:30 while Jimmy Mann finished second in the shorter race with a time of 1:20:51.
Talva Parker, a 38-year-old from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was the women’s marathon winner as she earned first place with a time of 3:20:56. Ami Roach of Dacula, Ga., was second in 3:22:10.
Teresa Kirkman was the women’s winner in the half-marathon with a time of 1:32:19.
It was a perfect day for this popular event, which has been held within the confines of Chickamauga Battlefield for the past 33 years. Temperatures were in the upper 30s when the races began, but clear skies and a bright sunshine yielded temperatures in the mid 60s later in the day.
Altman is a 33-year-old runner from Knoxville who serves as the race director for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. He knows all about the loneliness of a long-distance runner since he was by himself for virtually the entire 26.2-mile distance.
“I ran the whole thing by myself, but I’ve been healthy all year and I felt like I had something to prove after last year when I got passed at the 22-mile mark.
“My plan was to run a six-minute pace the whole way and I was close, although it’s hard to push at that pace when you’re so far ahead. I knew that I had a lead of more than a mile when we did that little out-and-back section, but I’m pretty happy,” he said after completing his 10th marathon.
While there were a lot of smiles on the faces of the finishers, some out of joy and some in pure agony, none were any happier than the 45-year-old Shrum, who is an ice machine repairman.
Shrum has been on a tear all year and he’s been pointing toward Saturday’s race from the start. He had a time of 3:00:50 three years ago and has been been trying to break that magical three-hour mark ever since.
It all came together on Saturday with plenty of time to spare.
“I can’t believe it. You told me several weeks ago that I was capable of breaking three hours, but I didn’t believe you. Today I ran negative splits as I passed the halfway point in 1:29:30. I picked it up after that as I never slowed down.
“I’ve tried so many times to break three hours. This is just the best feeling,” he smiled after admitting that his final mile was somewhere near a 6:30.
Parker made the trip for the sole purpose of checking Georgia off her list as she’s on the 50 marathons in all 50 state mission. Saturday’s race was her 43rd state and 14th marathon for the year.
“This is my first time in Georgia, but the timing for this race was just perfect. I flew down here by myself and my only goal was to be under four hours. It turned out to be an awesome day, but I’ll be heading back to Nashville later today to catch my flight home,” she added.
Roach is a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother who had been registered for New York last weekend. She’s run Chickamauga four times now and was just glad that things fell into place.
“I was a New York reject, but I’m glad I could come back here today. I hated missing New York, but I love this race as it has incredible scenery, it’s a small race and it’s well-organized.
“I got a personal record by more than five minutes and that was my goal today,” Roach added.
Enicks has had a banner year on the national level. Just a few weeks back, he ran a 2:44:57 in Minneapolis to win his age group at the U.S. National Championships and he’s done incredibly well at other distances as well.
“That’s a three-peat, baby,” Enicks said matter of factly after crossing the finish line.
“It was cold in the woods, but my goal was to win this race today. It’s not often that a 53-year-old gets a chance to win three in a row. I wanted to run a little faster. I ran with Jimmy for the first three miles as he went out hard and really woke me up and got my juices flowing,” the ROTC instructor at Red Bank High School added.
Mann is a 36-year-old member of the Alabama National Guard from Pelham. He was running on the Children’s Miracle Team on Saturday as he ran to raise money for the foundation that’s treating his six-year-old nephew Colin Sanders from Signal Mountain.
“It’s really nice to be able to run for such a good cause. Colin has been a cancer survivor for more than three years and he’s my inspiration. I’m happy. I’ve won a couple of other races in recent weeks and was hoping to keep my streak live, but the Colonel showed up,” he said, referring to Enicks.
“I’m ecstatic with my race. I’ll take second place any day,” Mann nodded.
Kirkman currently lives in Atlanta, but she’s originally from England. She’ll be celebrating her 41st birthday next month.
“I fell a little bit short of my goal, but some of those hills just took my legs away. This is a beautiful park and I love running here,” she said, noting that she had won another Half-marathon in Detroit just three weeks ago,” she smiled.
Jeff Gaither is a veteran runner from Chattanooga who ran the Four Bridges Half-Marathon on Oct. 21. He’s a 51-year-old cross country coach at GPS and he only decided to run the marathon about a week ago.
“I had a pretty good run today. Christian Bryant is a young lady who died about a week after graduation back in the spring. She had run track and cross country and we lost her just after graduation. Her mother started talking about a fund-raising event, so I ran the half in her memory.
“I ran about a 1:30 that day and got curious about how I might be able to do today. I’ve done two long trail runs these last two weekends and those were my only long runs. We were on pace for about a 3:07 and ran really strong for about 21 miles.
“It was all about pain management those last few miles,” he said after running the second half with his training buddy John Gracy.
Gaither was the Male Grand Masters winner in 3:13:19.
William Snow is a 26-year-old fellow from Surfside, South Carolina, a small town near Myrtle Beach. He’s signed up for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February, but had read about Chickamauga in Runner’s World.
He found out the hard way that marathons are a bit harder than they look, especially with such a lofty goal as a sub-three in his first race at this distance.
“It was an absolute horrible experience for me today,” he said with a pained expression on his face after crossing the finish line in 3:31:20.
“I heard that this was one of the best, but I guess I wasn’t as well prepared as I thought. I was on pace to break three hours as that was my goal, but I learned a valuable lesson today,” he added.
Dianna Leun was another one attempting her first marathon. Unlike Snow, Leun achieved her goal and more.
“It went really well today,” the 40-year-old registered nurse said afterward.
“I did a good job of pacing myself as I was hoping to get between 3:30 and 3:40. I pass the half in 1:41 and ended up with a 3:27:44, which is a Boston qualifier for me.
“I started hurting around 21 or 22, but I figured that others around me were hurting too and that’s what kept me going. Hugh Enicks came out and ran a few miles with me after he won the half and that meant the world to me. I’m glad I’m through,” the pretty Female Masters winner nodded.
Scott Erikson is a 39-year-old Chattanooga who also ran his first marathon on Saturday. Considering that he hurt his back on Wednesday and had trouble even walking on Thursday, he really pulled off a miracle run.
“It was amazing and I just don’t know how to describe it. It was the best experience of my life. It was nice to set a goal for myself and then come out here and achieve it. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish, but God pulled a miracle for me.
“I’ve been training for this race at least six months. I’m thankful to finish, especially since my parents came down from Boston to watch me run,” Erikson said later after an impressive run of 3:47:35.
Jenni Berz and Sherilyn Johnson served as co-race directors for the third straight year. These two also direct the Waterfront Triathlon, so they’re good at what they do. They know how to acquire hundreds of volunteers and they know how to organize a mammoth event such as this.
“I feel like it went better than expected. It’s hard to beat a day like today. The weather was beautiful, the runners were enthusiastic, we had lots of wonderful volunteers and some really good music. I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Berz said before running off to attend to another detail.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)