Pat Hagan Really Is Chattanooga's Marathon Man

Former Long-Distance Runner Finished 155 Marathons

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - by John Hunt

If there is a runner in the Chattanooga area who deserves the nickname of Marathon Man, Pat Hagan would be the first to qualify.

Hagan really is the marathon man.  Or maybe we should say that he used to be the marathon man.

Whatever the case, this guy has run more 26.2-mile races than anyone in this area and he has plenty of stories to share about the experiences he’s had and the hundreds of long-distance runners he’s become friends with.

Pat is now a 64-year-old former marathoner.  His last marathon came at Chickamauga in November 2005 at the same location of his first some 23 years before.

He’s a 1968 graduate of Chattanooga High School, fondly remembered by most as City High.  He didn’t play sports for the Dynamos, but he did have rhythm as he was a drummer in the marching band.

His running career didn’t begin until 1981 and that was when older brother Ray encouraged him to make the trip to Atlanta on July 4th for the Peachtree Road Race, that world-famous 10K event that draws upwards of 55,000 every Independence Day for the trek from Lennox Square down Peachtree Street into Piedmont Park.

“Ray wanted me to run Peachtree with him and already had a number for me, but I never had run six miles before,” Pat said during a mid-morning interview at the Downtown YMCA earlier this week.

“I’d been to the Red Bank track a few times after work to run a mile or two, but somehow I finished the race in under an hour and got a T-shirt,” he recalled, knowing that in the early days, 55 minutes was the cutoff for earning one of those famous shirts.

Hagan went on to run that race 27 years straight, but the longer distances are what got his attention.  He got to the point where he could run a marathon as easily as someone else could go out for a six-miler.  And he got to where he could do with without the need for a lot of recovery time.

Pat’s first marathon came at Chickamauga in 1982 when he posted a time of 3:27:57.  That was the first of 24 straight on a course where some of the most fierce Civil War battles were fought.

While Chickamauga was one of his favorites, Atlanta was another popular one as he did this race on Thanksgiving day 23 straight years.  And that was normally followed by a trip to Huntsville where he completed the Rocket City Marathon for 18 consecutive years.

When all was said and done, this guy completed 155 marathons.  Unlike marathoners these days where times don’t matter as much, Hagan raced this marathons as 150 of them were under four hours.  His “average” time for all 155 is a blistering 3:29:48.

His personal best came in Atlanta in 1987 when he broke three hours the only time with an impressive 2:59:38.

And in 1991, he made the trip to North Carolina for the Lake Junaluska Marathon where he had a time of 3:08:34 and was the overall winner.

This writer admits  that we ran a bunch of these marathons together in places ranging from Richmond to Pittsburgh to Tupelo to Boston to Grandfather Mountain.  It’s always fun to get together to talk about the good-ole days.  I’m proud to say that I finished my first one on that same day in 1982 and beat him by 19 seconds!

But Pat has stayed with it and still logs 15-20 miles a week.  In addition to those 155 marathons, he also finished 10 ultras, including five Birmingham 50-milers with a personal best of 7:09, which is an 8:35 pace.

“My first marathon was at Chickamauga in 1982 and my last one was there as well in 2005.  I’ve always enjoyed running in Chickamauga Park.  I live about two miles from the visitors center now, so it’s still a great place to run,” he continued.

Hagan also served as the president of the Chattanooga Track Club in 1985 and 1986 when he ran virtually every race on the CTC schedule in addition to all of those marathons.

“I used to really like the Chattanooga Chase, but I don’t like it anymore because it’s too hard and I’ve gotten too slow,” he laughed.

And the Chickamauga Chase was another race where he was a regular at the starting line.

“I just love running that loop, but going around one time is always more fun than two,” he said, referring to the double loop for the marathon.

“I don’t enjoy running as much as I used to, but I still do a few races from time to time.  I do most of my running by myself as I’m too slow to run with anybody else.  It all depends on how I’m feeling that day as to how far I’ll go.  Most of the time it’s about three miles, but if I’m feeling good, I’ll go five or maybe six,” he nodded.

Hagan’s original goal was to have 50 marathons under his belt by his 50th birthday.  He must have gotten carried away as he had 107 by that time.  His 100th came at the 101st Boston race in 1997 when he had a miserable day and struggled to finish in 3:57.

These days, Pat plays tennis at Manker Patten two or three times a week and he occasionally plays a little golf.  And after a 33-year career in the accounting department at TVA, Pat now works part-time at Memorial Hospital as a med tech where he draws blood, administers EKG tests and records other vital signs.

He’s also the father of two children, 37-year-old Emily and 34-year-old Patrick.  He has six grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Hagan’s life has been on cruise control for several years, but he’s looking forward to October when his wife Lisa retires and they hope to do some traveling.

But for a guy who made a name for himself as the marathon man, running doesn’t rank as high on the priority list as it once did.

Despite that fact, he had logged 63,507 miles at the end of 2013 and he’s still adding to it, but the marathon days are over.

“People run for different reasons.  I’ve enjoyed it for a long, long time, but I’m a lot slower now.  I always said that if I went over four hours for a marathon, I’d quit.  My last one was 4:01:52 at Chickamauga,” he concluded.

Pat Hagan is an interesting fellow and he has thousands of running stories to share.

He’s not nearly as fast as he once was, but what the heck, speed is overrated to begin with.

But he’s still at it and he’s still healthy and that’s all that really matters.

(This is the 18th in a series of features on runners in the Chattanooga area.  If you know someone who would make an interesting story, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)


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