has been running for a long, long time.
Back when he
started as a freshman boarding student at McCallie, very few people ran
outside. As a matter of fact, there were
times he was stopped by police, asking why he was running and who he was running
But for a
guy who recently celebrated his 74th birthday and who was one of the
founding members of the Chattanooga Track Club, running has provided a positive
outlet for him as it’s taken him many interesting places and allowed him to
meet thousands of interesting people.
originally from Kentucky, but moved to Chattanooga in the mid 50s to attend
McCallie. That’s when he got introduced
to running as he ran cross country for the Blue Tornado and was a miler on the
when I was in the ninth grade and I’ve been running ever since. I ran when I was in the Marines and I used to
do a lot of running at Chickamauga Park.
“And back in
those days, I used to go to the old downtown Y and run on that old indoor
track. I did my first 10-mile run on
that track and when I finished, I kept wanting to veer left,” he said with a laugh while
relaxing in his Rivervew home earlier this week.
Kay – his wife of 27 years – bought a house when they first got married and it
just happens to be right on the Chattanooga Chase course, located on the left,
right before you reach Shady Circle and the two-mile mark.
features about their house is the fact that a water fountain is attached to the
right side of their mailbox so passing runners have a place to get a drink
during their workout.
putting in a water line at the time and that just seemed like a good idea,” he
said when asked about the water fountain.
and I were the first two people to run outside as nobody ran on the streets in
those days. And Joe McGinness had the
idea of starting the track club. Atlanta
had a club in those days and we used to have races with them. That’s how the Chickamauga Chase got started,”
One of the first
road races Abner was involved with was the Chattanooga Chase back in 1970 when
it was held on Amnicola Highway.
“I fired the
gun at the start and then went down the highway to the halfway point to call
times, but I had forgotten to start my watch, so I had to guess what their
times might be. There were about 100
runners that day,” he remembered.
also a regular at Peachtree on July 4th in Atlanta as he ran it for
many years after running it for the first time in 1970, the second year it
existed. He was a regular for a number
of years at the Atlanta Half-Marathon on Thanksgiving and the Hogpen Hillclimb
in Helen, Ga. was another of his favorite races.
Hogpen goes from downtown Helen to the top of Hogpen
Gap, where the Appalachian Trail crosses the highway. That’s where the finish line is at the end of
a 10.7-mile run that’s one of the toughest around.
“I used to
go up there and camp on the Appalachian Trail, just past the finish line. That way, I had a place to change clothes and
I could take a nap when it ended. We
used to take a large group from Chattanooga up there for that race,” he
his favorite race in Chattanooga?
hard question to answer because they were all different. I remember the first time I ever broke 36
minutes in the Run For Extra Life, that 10K race from UTC to Eastgate.
“I also love
running up on Raccoon Mountain and I also like the Greenway. And Missionary Ridge is so serene with very
little traffic,” he added.
Abner ran a
dozen marathons and had a personal best of 2:55 at Marine Corp in
Washington. He was able to break three
hours on two occasions. He also ran
Boston twice, including 1976 when the temperature at the start was 100 degrees.
cooled down to the mid 80s by the time we finished, but I was running with ice
in my hat. Even though the conditions
were horrible, I had to finish because I had trained so hard to get there,” he
said, admitting that his time that day was around 3:05.
for himself these days as the owner of a small investment retirement
service. He became a registered broker
in 1967 and worked for several companies until he started his own company some 24 years ago.
investments for mostly retired people now and it keeps me busy, but I love working
for myself,” he explained.
doesn’t run as far or as fast as he once did, he still logs about 25 miles a week. Just last week, he surpassed 72,000 miles.
great being part of the Chattanooga Track Club since the beginning. To see how the club has grown and improved
really makes me happy. Running has been
a great experience for me.
“There’s a two-mile
course at McCallie called Billy Goat Hill and my best time on that was a 9:44
and my time of 4:36 was the school record in the mile for about 10 years. And I’m real proud of that 2:55 at Marine
Corps as all of the McGinnesses were there that day,” he recalled.
He does most
of his running and working out at the downtown Sports Barn and there’s a
special run he does every Tuesday.
“I go over
to the Jewish cemetery next to UTC (between Mable Street and Third) and put a
penny on Judy Stoller’s grave every Tuesday.
We used to run a lot together and she would stop every time she’d see a
penny on the ground. I’ve been doing
that for the last 11 years,” he said about the lady who was a faithful CTC
member before cancer took her life.
enjoys backpacking and has been on some incredible trips to places like
Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Canada. He
was in New Hampshire back in 2001 when the tragedy at the World Trade Center in
New York took place.
even know what was going on, but our trip got cut short by that horrible act. We had to drive back to Chattanooga as nobody wanted to fly.
“But I still
love backpacking as I have all the equipment and clothes. I also play poker with some friends and we’ve
doing that every week for the last 35 years.
And I’ve started playing golf in recent years, although I’m not very
good at it,” he said.
never been a runner, but their 26-year-old daughter Kaytie runs or walks every
day, although Abner has never run with her.
very private person and does her own thing, but she’s dedicated to staying in
shape,” her father stated.
Chattanooga Track Club is bigger and better today than it ever has been, but
one of the reasons is that a guy like Abner Oldham helped perpetuate the idea
back in the late 60s when running wasn’t as popular.
still at it all of these years later and he’s still got a connection to the
running community in Chattanooga.
And if you’re
ever running on the Chattanooga Chase course and need a drink, find the water
fountain on the right side of the mailbox at 1529 Sunset Road.
Abner as you head on your way as he continues to help those on the run.
(This is the
26th in a series of runners in Chattanooga, including many members
fo the Chattanooga Track Club. If you
know of someone who would make an interesting story, email John Hunt at