Sue Anne Brown An Outstanding Runner Among Other Things

Personable Chattanoogan Maintains Tough Workout Routine

Thursday, March 13, 2014 - by John Hunt

Sue Anne Brown has never been one to back away from a challenge.  As a matter of fact, the bigger and tougher, the better.

Brown is one of the most regular participants in Chattanooga Track Club races.  She’s been running for most of the past 60 years.

Her father was a West Point graduate who later became a military judge, so she had the opportunity to do quite a bit of world-wide traveling in earlier years. 

She was born in Fort Benning, Ga. On May 1, 1946, so she’ll celebrate her 68th birthday soon.  She’s lived in places such as Seoul, Korea and Austria and Italy to name a few, but she and her family moved to Chattanooga in 1972.

She’s always been an athletic person, showing lots of talent in tennis in addition to running. Her running career began some 60 years ago, back in the day when the presence of females was more the exception than the rule.

“It was a different kind of running back in those days.  I did a lot of running in the dark, but I just had the natural urge to run,” she explained one after noon this week at the downtown YMCA.

“I played a lot of tennis when I was overseas, but I still ran.  There were no group runs in those days as most people ran alone,” she continued.

Sue Anne’s first race came on Labor Day 1969 when she entered a two-miler in Lexington, Va.  She remembers that she averaged “about 6:30 miles but two miles wasn’t long enough.”

Her first race in Chattanooga took place in the spring of 1972 when she was one of two women in the Chattanooga Chase.  Louise Guerry was the other woman that day.

“It was fast, but I was serious about my running.  There were only about 40 runners in the race,” she recalled.

The Chickamauga Chase was another of her earliest racing experiences.

“It was a 10-miler back in 1973 when I ran it the first time.  It seemed like all older people at the starting line then and I think that most of them are dead now.  It’s still one of my favorites as I just love running in the battlefield.  That was one of the biggest races around and I think I’ve only missed about five of them since that time,” she explained.

Brown has only run one marathon, but it was one she’ll never forget for a couple of reasons.

“My former husband Ed Herring was in the textile industry and he invented the mesh that was part of running clothes back then.  He was associated with Bill Rodgers, who had his own line of clothing.  He invited us to Boston for the marathon, so we went.

“I got food poisoning while I was there and was in the hospital on the day before the race.  I still had a 3:36, despite being really weak from all the fluids that I had lost.  It was a wonderful experience as I felt light as a feather, but I haven’t run a marathon since,” she nodded.

While the Chickamauga Chase has always been at the top of her list of favorite races, the Wauhatchie Trail Run is also on that list.  If you’ve ever done this race, it’s held at the Chattanooga Nature Center and includes a run of 6.8 miles that on the side of Lookout Mountain.  It’s a challenging event for anyone who has the courage to attempt it.

“I like the smallness of Wauhatchie, but it’s also a hard race.  The harder the course, the better I like it.  I fell and broke my arm back during that race in 1987.  I was near the three-mile mark and went around a corner too fast.  I hit a rock and just went flying, but I had to run the rest of the way since there was no other way to get back down.  I’m just glad that I didn’t break my leg, but I still went out and ran six miles the next day,” she recallied.

Brown averaged 40 miles a week for more than 15 years.  She still runs about five days a week, but it’s only about 25 miles now.  Nonetheless, it’s a grueling workout that she puts herself through and she does it by herself on most days.

“I don’t run as far, but I still do quality miles.  I run from the bottom of Raccoon Mountain to the top and back.  I run with Betty Holder and Cathy Gracey on Wednesday.  Like I said earlier, I run alone most of the time because I don’t want to wait for anyone.  I’m just not a group runner,” she admitted.

So what does this energetic lady to when she’s not running?

“I have other hobbies as I’m an avid reader.  I’m an amateur Holocaust and World War II historian and have quite a few books about that.  I’m also a jigsaw puzzler.  I prefer the ones with a thousand pieces, but I once did one with 5,000.  When I get through, I just put them back in the box and back on the shelf.

“I probably have 300 puzzles and there are times when I take them to nursing homes to share with the residents.  I also like to garden.

Sue Anne has been married to Chris Brown for the past 16 years and she’s also the mother to three grown chiidren, all daughters who are married and successful.

Jenny and her family live in Nashville while Debbie is in Jacksonville and Kathy in Ocala.  Sue Anne is also proud to talk about her five grandchildren.

Sue Anne was a big-time volunteer in years past, including tennis tournaments and as race director of the Karen Lawrence Run For St. Jude.  She got somewhat burned out, so she doesn’t volunteer now like she once did.

“I was the Runner of the Year in my age group last year, but I probably won’t win again because I’m not willing to volunteer and that’s part of it.  I’ve done my time and feel  like others can step in now.  I still play two tennis matches a week and they’re both doubles, but my legs get tired if I try to do both.

“The Chattanooga Track Club is good for some people.  Getting awards is nice, but it’s not the only thing.  However, it’s nice to be recognized for being first in your age group.  I’m a very competitive person and I run to win in every race.  That’s my goal in everything I do,” she continued.

So what are Sue Anne’s goals for the near future?

“The 10K has always been my favorite distance to race, but I enjoy doing half-marathons now.  But my goals are the same as they’ve always been and that’s to run as many races as I can.  I want to keep training hard and stay healthy.  Those goals never change.

“I think my best days are behind me, but better days as far as living are still ahead for me.  I’m thankful for every day that I’m healthy.  I know I’m getting older and I think I can see the end of the tunnel,” she concluded.

Sue Anne Brown is for sure a unique individual  and even very opinionated at times.  She’s a believer in hard work and she has a lifetime of outstanding achievements that have rewarded her effort.

She doesn’t run as fast as she once did, but there’s nothing slouchy about her daily routine.  If you don’t agree, then take a run up Raccoon Mountain.  Then you’ll know what she’s talking about.

(This is the fourth in a series of features on runners in the Chattanooga area, including Chattanooga Track Club members,  officers, volunteers and sponsors.  If you have someone who is deserving of a feature, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)


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