When Geno Phillips and Jessica Marlier show up for a local road race, the rest of the field can starting thinking about who will finish second.
Such was the case on Saturday morning as these two took home the overall awards in the annual Signal Mountain Pie Run, a challenging yet picturesque 10K race that starts and finishes at the Signal Mountain Athletic Club, formerly the old Signal Mountain Junior High School.
Phillips won his 10th race of the year and third 10K in recent weeks with a time of 35 minutes, 52 seconds while Marlier wasn’t far behind as she had another personal best with a time of 37 minutes, 24 seconds, which was fifth overall in the field of 129 who finished.
While Phillips was averaging 5:47 per mile in his winning effort, Andy Highlander was the runner-up in 36:46. Peyton Miller was third in 36:52 while Ryan Shrum was fourth in 37:01. Mark Malecky was the fifth male as he took sixth overall in 39:34.
The 28-year-old Marlier, who had a 3:34:24 in last Sunday’s 7 Bridges Marathon, is pointing toward the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in two weeks where she hopes to break three hours. Counting a 16-mile run on Sunday, she’ll have about 60 miles for the week as she begins her taper for Chickamauga.
Amanda Tate was the female runner-up in 40 minutes flat as she was eighth overall while Masters champ Dianna Leun was the third females as she finished 13th overall in 43:52.
Allison Colberg and Natalie Sims were the fourth and fifth ladies with times of 46:57 and 47:17, good enough for 24th and 25th places respectively.
The air was a bit on the brisk side for the 8 a.m. start as many runners wore tights, long sleeves, gloves and toboggans, but what a perfect day for a race on one of the prettiest courses in Chattanooga.
Phillips and Highlander ran together for the first four miles, but Phillips never slowed down as he charged up the final hill to finish 54 seconds ahead of his younger challenger.
“It was cold, but I felt good,” the 42-year-old Phillips said inside the gym where it was somewhat warmer than outside.
“I was wanting to run negative splits. I had a six-minute first mile and picked it up from there. This is a tough course, but I like hills. I have more trouble running hard going down, but I can go up just fine. Andy and I ran together for several miles, but he dropped a bit on the way back,” the Red Bank Middle School teacher added.
Highlander is a 26-year-old civil engineer who was just hoping to do better than his last 10K at Joe Johnson. He was able to do just that and was happy at the finish line.
“I was just trying to have a better run than I had a Joe Johnson as I’ve been working on my strength. My goal was to run strong for four miles and that’s what I did and that’s where Geno started pulling away. I was just holding on at the end,” Highlander explained.
Marlier, pronounced Mar-lee-aay, has been on fire in recent weeks as she had personal bests at Raccoon Mountain and Joe Johnson. She’s running stronger than ever and should easily reach her goal in two weeks unless something unpredictable takes place.
“The thought of a nice apple pie and some warm clothes really kept me going today,” the petite 28-year-old said.
“This is definitely one of the more challenging races, but I think I started out a little too quick which made that last mile tough. There wasn’t as much pressure without a watch as I was just running by how I felt.
“We’ll back down the mileage in the next two weeks, but my legs were recovered from the marathon as I felt fine. It was a good race today and at least, it wasn’t raining,” she concluded in reference to Raccoon Mountain when she ran in a monsoon the whole way.
Tate had an outstanding career at UTC in the mid 90s where she excelled in track and cross country. These days, she stays busy as a physical therapist for Center for Sports Medicine and as a mother of four-year-old twins and an 18-month old.
Sunday will be her 36th birthday, but she certainly doesn’t run like someone that age.
“I’m planning to run Kiawah in December, so I just used today’s race as a training run. This certainly isn’t a PR course for most runners, but I love running up here. As a matter of fact, my husband Jeremiah and I are getting ready to buy a house right next to where this race turns around,” Tate smiled.
Rick Loggins was just one of several veteran runners who showed up and ran this popular event. Loggins is now 53, but this is one of those races he points for every fall.
“a 10-dollar entry fee and a pie. That’s two good reasons for me to come up here every year, but I just started back running about three weeks ago. I predicted a 55:55 and I think I had a 55:45,” Loggins explained.
Saturday’s event was a prediction run and that’s why watches weren’t allowed.
Sarah Powe and Russell Rogers had finish times of 47:30 and 43:46, but more importantly, they were just one second off of their prediction. They took home the $50 first place in that category.
Phillips was just four seconds off while Adam Burnette missed by just six seconds.
This is the 38th year for this race to be held and it’s changed in recent years. It was held on Sunday morning for many years and the distance was 6.8 miles or 11K, but that was changed several years back.
Lee Davis served as the race director for the 14th year. His wife Heather Ott is the Baylor girls cross country coach and they were all out in force working one of the water stops and offering encouraging words to the runners.
Patrick Hall and Rebecca Greenwall were the defending race winners, but neither were present to run on Saturday.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)