Connie Petty Thrives On An Active Lifestyle

She Does It All, But Snow Skiing Tops The List

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - by John Hunt
Connie Petty is always on the go.

She redefines time management as she probably gets more done before the sun rises than most people accomplish the rest of the day.

Petty is a slender 48-year-old lady who serves as the Director of Rehabilitation for the Center for Sports Medicine.  She oversees the operation of four local offices as her duties are more administrative these days than hands on, but she’s been a Physical Therapist for more than 25 years and she’s the master at what she does.


She’s also an extremely fit individual who takes physical fitness seriously.

Connie is the youngest daughter of Jim and Shirley Roberts who grew up in Whitwell and played basketball for coach Bruce Mullins and the Lady Tigers for three years.  She graduated in 1984 before attending UTC for a couple of years.  She then transferred to UT-Memphis where she graduated in December 1988.

She started working as a PT for Center for Sports Medicine on Jan. 3, 1989 and she’s been there ever since.

While she admits that her athletic career in high school wasn’t anything spectacular, she decided to go for a short run the day after she graduated from high school.  As it turns out, it was a real wakeup call and one that ultimately changed her life.

“I decided to go for a run when I graduated.  I only made it about a mile as I was so out of shape.  I had played a lot of basketball, but had done nothing once the season ended.  I made a promise to myself that day that I would never be out of shape again,” she explained earlier this week after spending the day snowjavascript:void(0); skiing in Breckenridge, Co.

Later in the fall of 1988, she entered her first race, a 5K benefitting the Marion County Jaycees.

Fast forward a few years and you realize that Connie has maintained that promise to herself.

She gets up at 4 a.m. on weekdays and heads to the Sports Barn where she does a 90-minute workout that includes stationary biking, running or both.  She swims 2-3 miles a week and she does 300 situps and 40-50 pushups at the start of every day.

After returning home to cook breakfast for herself and Colton, she takes him to school before going to work.  After picking Colton up later in the day, they go home where she cooks supper, helps with homework when needed and does other chores around the house before going to bed.

This past Saturday when she made the trip to Colorado with her son Colton for a week of snow skiing, she didn’t do anything physical.  It  was the first day off she’s had in more than eight months.

Connie has run six marathons with a personal best of 3:36 at Chickamauga in 1994.  She ran her second a year later on the same course before Colton was born on April 22, 1996.  She even did a 20-mile workout on her stationary bike the day her only child was born.

She let 17 years pass before she ran her third 26.2-mile event, but running is probably one of the most important things she does and she has some grand plans for the future.

Her most recent running event was the Black Warrior 50K near Huntsville on Feb. 15.  It was a tough day with extremely muddy conditions, but she finished in seven hours, five minutes .

“Lynda Webber talked me in to that event, but it was fun in a wicked sort of way.  It was a moderately technical trail, but it turned into a mental game where I just had to keep moving forward.  It was really a fun experience as I got to know so many new friends that day.  We just chatted as we ran,” she remembered.

Connie averages between 30-40 miles a week these days with about half of that on trails.  She’s gotten to be good friends with Betty Holder and Webber and they do a lot of long runs together on the trails.

“Lynda had been extremely encouraging and motivating, but Betty, Lynda and I did a 50K training run at Chickamauga Park before that race. I can lose myself on the trails,” Petty continued.

Webber and Holder have both done a lot of ultra-distance events and Holder has completed seven Ironman events.  They’re trying to persuade Petty to take her fitness to the next level.

“I’m thinking about doing a 50-miler in the fall and Betty is trying to talk me into an Ironman,” she admitted.

Connie has done three century bike rides and she completed the 3-State, 3-Mountain event one time.  She’s also done several sprint triathlons.

The Chickamauga Chase 15K is one of her favorite events and she also enjoys the Chattanooga Chase because “it’s a hard course.”

She also did a Spartan race a few weeks back in Atlanta, which was a brutal event including a run just a bit longer than four miles, but with some 15 obstacles along the way.

“We had wall climbs and rope climbs.  We had to drag big truck tires through the mud and we had to carry sand bags among other things.  If you were unable to do any of these, you had to do 30 burpees before you could continue,” she explained.

For those of you unfamiliar with those, they’ve also called Ups and Downs. They’re a tough exercise that includes running in place before going down on your belly and doing a push-up before returning to a standing position.

“The rope climb was the toughest part as I don’t have nearly enough upper body strength.  I think I did about 90 burpees total, but I got a great anaerobic workout.  I finished third in my age group and in the top 10 percent of all the females that day,” she said proudly.

Her plans for the rest of the year include the Scenic City Trail Marathon on Raccoon Mountain in May, the Waterfront Triathlon in July, the Chickamauga marathon on November  and possibly that 50-miler in Texas in the fall as well.

She didn’t run the marathon at Chickamauga last fall as she opted to coach a group of ladies from work in the 5K that day.  The Center for Sports Medicine has been a corporate sponsor with involvement through the Children’s Hospital Foundation, so she was quick to take advantage of that opportunity.

“Most of these ladies had either never run before or it had been a long time, but they all did it and most of them are still running.  It was really a rewarding experience for me,” she nodded.

Petty has started running with the group from the downtown YMCA that gathers every Saturday morning and takes off by 6:30 to do a long run, any distance ranging from 10-23 miles.  She’s not afraid to work out alone, but she also enjoys the social aspect of exercising with friends.

“I’m very fit and strong these days as my legs are not the least bit fatigued after a day of skiing.  I enjoy a lot of different sports, but I think snow skiing is my favorite.  I skied for the first time when I was 16 and have enjoyed it ever since.

“Colton was three the first year we came to Colorado, but we’ve skied in other places like North Carolina, West Virginia and New Hampshire in addition to here,” she added.

“I also enjoy spending time with Colton and the rest of my family and friends.  One of the things I appreciate most about runners is the fact that they ask “Why not?” instead of why when it comes to a certain distance, race or pace.  I think that we run to support Panera,” she concluded with a laugh, knowing that those Saturday morning runs end with a gathering at the popular spot on Market Street.

Connie Petty is an inspiration to everyone around her.  She’s obviously an outstanding athlete, but she’s an even better person.  She’s getting ready to attempt endurance events that she’s never done before, but chances are good that she’ll do just fine.

She does her homework on a daily basis and that always makes test day a lot easier.  And it’s all because of a promise she made to herself on that hot summer afternoon almost 30 years ago.

(This is the sixth in a series of runners who are members of the Chattanooga Track Club.  If you have a suggestion of someone who is deserving of a similar story, please email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)

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