It was a perfect day for running on Saturday morning high atop Raccoon Mountain. Perfect, that is, if you’re a duck or your first name is Noah.
The weatherman had predicted near 100 percent chance of rain and he was right on the money, but that didn’t keep almost 200 running fanatics from gathering at the Laurel Point Recreation Area for one of the Chattanooga Track Club’s most scenic events.
The rain was steady as runners began to gather and it got even harder as the start time approached.
By the time the runners took off from the starting line, it was a full-blown downpour.
Add a difficult crosswind at the top and conditions were less than desirable and at times, almost impossible.
Geno Phillips and Jessica Marlier were winners of the 10K while Christopher Butler and Ellie Shelton were victorious in the 15K. There were 115 who finished the 6.2-mile event while another 48 braved the elements for the out-and-back shorter event.
Phillips was all by himself when he crossed the line with a time of 35 minutes and 26 seconds but Dean Thompson wasn’t too far back as he finished second in 35:38.
Ryan Shrum was third in 37:51 while Marlier was fourth in 37:56.
While Marlier was the class of the women’s field, masters winner Dianna Leun was second as she finished 13th overall in 43:52. Cindy Duck – anyone want to take a bet that’s not her real last name – was third in 44:46 while Lisa Logan and Allison Colberg completed the top five ladies with times of 46:11 and 46:49.
Butler posted a time of 19:34 in winning the 5K while runner-up Ringo Long wasn’t even in sight with a time of 21:52.
The thirteen-year-old Shelton was eighth overall in 24:54 while the women’s runner-up was Kendi Cagle, who finished 13th in 26:17.
Phillips is a 42-year-old teacher at Red Bank Middle School who almost stayed in bed Saturday morning.
“It was just a little bit wet and a very tough course,” he explained, knowing that the first mile is basically uphill and that the remaining four miles around the perimeter also have a couple of tough climbs, including the longest and most difficult between the third and fourth miles.
“I hate running in the rain and I almost didn’t come, but I figured if I stayed home, the rain would stop. It was raining so hard at the start that we were pretty conservative for the first three miles. Dean had the lead, but I caught him going up the second big hill. I pushed the pace from that point on,” Phillips added.
Thompson is a 48-year-old veteran runner from Cohutta, Ga., who is just getting over a nagging injury. He looked to be about 100 percent on Saturday.
“I felt really good out there and it was a good workout for us both,” he said while talking with Phillips afterward. “When I realized I was leading in the first three miles, I thought that Geno had stopped and gone home, but I guess he was just playing with me at that point.
“That second hill is significant and that’s where Geno showed me who was boss. I was hoping to run under 36 minutes today and I did,” he continued, noting that his time for the first half was some 17:29 and a little faster 16:45 for the last half.
“For some reason, I’ve always run well in the rain, but that’s not saying that I always enjoy it, but today was a lot of run,” he concluded.
Marlier is a 28-year-old substitute teacher who also officiates volleyball and basketball. She’s pointing toward a big day in November at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, but she’s also planning to run a couple of other marathons leading up to that day.
“The door prizes today should be umbrellas,” she joked as she headed for a tent to be interviewed.
“It was wet and soggy out there, but I haven’t run a 10K in several years and just needed to see where my fitness level is. My training is paying off. It was like a monsoon at the start, but I just tried to embrace it and to have as much fun as possible.
“I tried to hang in there with Ryan. I wanted to keep my pace going up the biggest hill as I’m much stronger going down, but it was so much fun out there today. If it’s going to rain, it might as well pour, but we had a lot of fun running through the puddles,” the petite winner concluded with a smile.
Leun is a 41-year-old registered nurse at Erlanger who had her second experience on this course. She continues to get stronger and stronger and she too is pointing toward Chickamauga later in the fall.
“I’m sore now as that big gigantic hill killed me,” she said after finishing a post-race warmdown of some four miles.
“The rain certainly made it interesting, but it’s a challenging course on a good day. It was really raining hard at times and I was hoping that it would slack off just a little bit so I could see. The rain was a nice distraction for the hills, but Lisa was right on my heels the whole way,” she nodded in reference to her buddy Lisa Logan.
Sue Barlow is a 48-year-old physical therapist who won her age group with a time of 49:28. Her time wasn’t as important as her place for this race.
“I just know that I beat John Crawley today. I passed him going down the second hill and he never caught up,” she joked, knowing that the 61-year-old Crawley is a pretty good runner in his own right.
“This course will kick your butt on a sunny day, but some races are just like this. I had a good run despite the conditions,” Crawley expressed later.
Butler is a 42-year-old machinist from Grant, Alabama, a small town about midway between Huntsville and Birmingham. He was all by himself at the finish, but he was running for more than himself.
“My daughter wanted to run this race, so I came up here with her. Considering the weather, it was okay, but I’ve run much faster than this in the past,” he nodded.
Saturday’s race was the first CTC event of the year that was held under such wet conditions, but several runners mentioned the FCA 5K on Labor Day a couple of years ago as one where the rain was equally as intense.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)