More than a thousand long-distance running enthusiasts had near-perfect running conditions for the 34th annual Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon and Half-Marathon Saturday morning and many runners responded with outstanding efforts and super-quick times in one of the nation’s oldest and most historic national parks.
Don Humphreys made his first marathon attempt a good one as he captured first place in the 26.2-mile course that includes a pair of loops through Chickamauga Battlefleld.
He crossed the finish line on Barnhardt Circle with a time of two hours, 51 minutes and 24 seconds.
Ryan Shrum was the runner-up as he also had a personal best with a 2:52:01 while Jessica Marlier continued her domination among the ladies by finishing third overall in two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds, a personal record by more than 10 minutes for the petite 28-year-old teacher.
Hugh Enicks, who had won the half-marathon here for the past three years, had to settle for fourth in 2:53:19.
Jason Altman, a 34-year-old speedster from Knoxville who was the marathon winner last year, captured first place in the half-marathon with a time of 1:14:09, which was some 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Geno Phillips. Jacob Bradley was third in 1:16:30.
Terri Kirkman, an energetic and enthusiastic 41-year-old stay-at-home mom from Canton, Ga., was the women’s winner of the 13.1-mile race with a time of 1:29:57, which was eighth overall.
Cory Aulich and Lynn Fults were winners of the first-ever 5K with times of 19:15 and 23:19, respectively, despite making a wrong turn in the first mile and having to run more than a quarter-mile further than the 3.1-mile distance.
Humphreys is a 25-year-old software developer for Unum who has called Chattanooga home for the past four years. He’s a 2007 graduate of Cleveland High School who really hit a home run in his first marathon attempt.
“I went out with Hugh (Enicks), but he dropped me about the eight-mile mark,” Humphreys said while chatting with friends afterward.
“I caught back up with him about 23 and a half, but he had about a two-minute gap at mile 18 and I didn’t think I had a chance of catching him. I tried to ease up a bit between miles 19 and 20 as I’ve heard so much about hitting the wall.
“I was really hoping to go under 2:50, but a sub three for sure, but winning is a lot more important than time on a day like today. I had taken about five years off from running as I was doing a lot of triathlons, but I started back last August. I knew a win was possible today, but it was still a longshot,” Humphreys nodded.
Shrum ran a 2:56:30 last year when he finished second behind Altman in his first marathon to break the three-hour barrier. For the second straight year, the 46-year-old ice machine repairman was all smiles as he approached the finish line.
“I was really surprised when we caught Hugh, but that really gave me a boost of adrenalin,” Shrum explained.
“I knew I had to pass him to win the masters division, but I ran a 6:05 last mile as I really turned it on. I was wearing a 2:54 pace band and was at 1:27:10 at the half, so we ran negative splits today. Jessica and I talked the whole way and I know that she wanted to beat me. She was so strong today and really thought she’d outkick me at the end, but I was able to hold her off.
“My mother went in the hospital last night and I really thought a lot about her when I started hurting. She’s been here for every one of my races here and I really missed her being here today,” Shrum nodded.
Marlier has really turned the women’s division into a one-horse race in recent Chattanooga Track Club races. She’s won more races this year than she can remember, but she’s also had PRs at the Joe Johnson, Raccoon Mountain and Signal Mountain 10Ks in the last few weeks, so she’s really been on a roll.
Her goal on Saturday was to break three hours. From the results, you can see that she did without any difficulity.
“I think I started my kick too early, but today’s race went really, really well,” she suggested, noting that she broke her previous best of 3:03:23 by more than 10 minutes.
“Ryan and I do most of our training together and this is the race we’ve had our eyes on since the beginning, but having him there with me today made a huge diffference. We really started pushing when we caught Hugh, but the last couple of miles were just a blur for me.
“I just want to give God the credit for giving me the strength and the courage to run so well today. I was hoping to break three and possibly 2:55, but I had to wipe the frown off my face as we approached the finish line as I had to focus on smiling because I was so happy,” Marlier nodded.
Enicks has had an outstanding last month despite coming up short of his goal on Saturday. He set a state record at the Joe Johnson 10K and finished second at the Masters 15K National Championship in Tulsa before Saturday’s marathon. He also kept his usual routine intact as he camped out behind the 6th Calvary Museum Friday night.
“I enjoyed it and had a good run, but I just couldn’t hold everyone off,” he said while taking his tent down.
“Today’s race qualifies me for the USA Marathon Nationals, so I’m happy as it was a great day to run. I’m giving those young people a run for their money, but I did what I had to do today. I just couldn’t respond when Don pulled up alongside my shoulder at the end.
“He ran a great race today, but it was a good day for everyone. You just never know what’s going to happen in a marathon until race day,” he added.
Enicks is a 54-year-old ROTC instructor at Red Bank High School who had won this marathon on three occasions before winning the half the last three years.
Nashville’s Daniel Grotts posted a 3:04:13 in his first attempt at the marathon distance and he too was really happy when it ended. He’s a 23-year-old fellow who’s a drummer in a local rock-and-roll band and he’s also a waiter at the California Pizza Kitchen in the Music City.
“I think was on a 6:45 pace for the first 20 miles, but my legs got tight after that. Those last five miles were pretty brutal, but I was just wanting to experience the wall I’ve heard so much about. But I’m most happy that I got a Boston qualifier today,” he added after winning the men’s 20-24 age group.
Chattanooga’s Tripp McCallie was another runner who had a smile across his face when the race finally ended. His time of 3:13:57 was a personal record by a whopping 25 minutes as he won the men’s 40-44 age group.
“I think I went out a little fast as I was feeling too good, but I train with Ryan and Jessica and felt well;-prepared for today’s race. I don’t know how I did the last four miles as I was really losing it at the end, but I had a PR by more than 25 minutes in my third marathon,” the 44-yearold fund raiser at the downtown YMCA explained.
Altman has made his name as a marathon runner, but his wife just gave birth to their second son in June, so his training schedule has been adjusted since that time. He didn’t run the longer race, but he was just as strong in the one half the distance.
“I was hoping to get under 1:15, so I’m happy. I knew it would be tough when I saw that Geno had entered, but we ran together for the first nine miles. We were on about a 5:45 pace at that point, but I had a 5:35 between miles nine and 10 and then had a 5:30 after that to open up a little gap.
“I just tried to maintain that lead at the end, but I’m very pleased when you consider that most of my running these days is behind a jogging stroller,” the 34-year-old director of the Knoxville Marathon smiled.
Phillips is a 42-year-old history teacher at Red Bank Middle who won the Four Bridges Half-Marathon in downtown Chattanooga a few weeks back.
“I was chasing Jason the whole way, but I slowed up a little bit and he just kept picking it up. I’m still happy,” the 2009 Chickamauga marathon winner said.
Kirkman was the half-marathon winner for the second straight year and she may have been happier than anyone at the finish line.
“I finally reached my goal of breaking 90 minutes,” she said with that strong English accent that is so common in England where she’s originally from.
“I just love this course as it’s the only race I’ve run more than once, but this race is always so well-organized and just a beautiful place to run. The weather was perfect, but I think I was more concerned with achieving my goal than winning, but what a great finish,” she smiled.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)