Roy Exum: The Amazing Melanie Blake

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Dr. Melanie Blake, an internal medicine specialist who has the distinct task of keeping me and countless hundreds of others alive at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Medical Center, proved she can sure be quick about it last weekend when she won two medals at the USA Track Federation’s Masters Indoor Championships in Boston.

Dr. Blake, a 35-year-old mother of two on Signal Mountain, won first place and the national title in the 60-meter hurdles and second in the 60-meter dash in the 35-39 Masters Division while running for the Chattanooga Track Club’s Race Team. “It is more fun than you can ever imagine,” the former Florida State standout said between seeing patients.

“I thought running-for-distance was pretty much all that was left until I read a magazine article about a female attorney in Atlanta who found sprints and hurdles were just as much fun after college. The people you meet and compete with are wonderful, as most runners already know, but I’ve found practicing is more fun than going to a gym every day.”

Dr. Blake, who was recently elected by her peers as Chief of Medicine at Erlanger, said she works out about four or five times a week, running in the late afternoons for Hugh Enick’s Red Bank High School club. At Boston last week the personable Enicks, whose day job is being a school administrator, was fourth in the men’s 3,000 in the 50-year age group while a teammate, Donnelle Dunning, earned second in the 60-meter dash among 35-year-old men.

Last week’s title was Dr. Blake’s second in the past year. Last summer in the National Outdoor Masters she won the 400-meter hurdles in something of a memorable race. “The top three finishers were red heads,” she laughed. “What’s fun is you get to know the other competitors and the girl I barely beat has two kids just like me. Total strangers, we find we have so much in common.”

Born the daughter of an Alabama dentist, she competed in cross-country, track and tennis at Alabama’s John Carroll High and early in her freshman year was running on Florida State’s track when she was approached by who she at first thought was the groundskeeper. Instead it was fabled FSU track coach Terry Long and he instilled a love for track in the future doctor.

Dr. Blake attended medical school at the University of Alabama Medical School in Birmingham and then did her residency at UA-Birmingham where she met her husband, Dr. John ‘Rhet’ Blake, who is a board-certified anesthetist and pain specialist in Chattanooga. “Rhet is avid about the outdoors and enjoys exercise as much as I do so we are a pretty active family.”

She said the Chattanooga Track Club is how she got into Hugh Enick’s program. “I stopped by Fast Break Sports and could hardly believe how easy it was to get involved. Chattanooga is so fortunate to have the track club where anybody is welcome, regardless of their expertise. Trust me, we all start slow!”

Her first-place medal in Boston qualified her to compete in the World Masters, which is being held in Budapest. “There is no way; it is in two weeks,” she said, “but if I can continue to get better and figure out how to get a little faster I think that would make a great family vacation sometime. As our children grow, Rhet and I really want them to enjoy sports as much as we have.”

She also wants more females to get involved. “I am one of few females my age who is still running track events but from just the number of women who run in distance events, I know there are a number of girls who enjoyed running track in high school and college. It would be wonderful if others would get involved because if we could put together some relay teams, it is incredibly rewarding when your team wins.”

Dr. Blake said she plans to run in some meets this spring and summer and hope to return to Olathe, Kansas, for the Outdoor Masters Nationals and defend her 400 meter hurdles title.

In the meanwhile, she pledges to practice just as hard in keeping me and hundreds of other patients alive. “I have to keep my cheerleaders!”

Dr. Melanie Blake
Dr. Melanie Blake

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