There’s just something special about running marathons in Chattanooga that appeals to Jason Altman.
That is really the case at Chickamauga, especially in even-numbered years.
Altman has been victorious at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon on two different occasions, first in 2010 and last in 2012. He made it a three-peat in 2014 as he covered the double-looped 26.2-mile race on a beautiful Saturday morning in two hours, 41 minutes and seven seconds.
It was an absolute perfect morning at the park for Saturday's race with crystal-clear skies, temperatures in the low 30s and no wind at all. Many runners responded to those conditions with their personal best times.
Altman, that slender 35-year-old gentleman who works full-time for the Knoxville Track Club as the race director for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, was hoping to run a little bit faster, but he was all smiles when he crossed the finish line on Barnhardt Circle after completing his 11th such race.
“I was hoping to go under 2:40, but a guy on the bike told me that my lead at the 15-mile mark was four minutes and I got a little conservative after that,” he said after greeting his wife and two sons shortly after finishing the 35th annual race.
“I didn’t want to blow up in the final miles as I fell apart in this race in 2011 when I finished second. I ran by myself most of the way, but I had two buddies who were here to support other people that ran part of the way with me,” he added.
While Altman became a three-time winner, Juan Soto was the runner-up in 2:43:59 while Peter Volgyesi was third in 2:45:40.
Ryan Shrum, who had finished second in the last two years, was fourth on Saturday as he posted a personal best with a time of 2:50:46. Hugh Enicks, that amazing 55-year-old from Red Bank who was fourth last year, was fifth in 2:54:51.
Tabatha Hamilton, a 31-year-old from Trenton, Ga., was the women’s winner as she finished sixth overall with a splendid time of two hours, 55 minutes and 39 seconds. She was running her second Chickamauga race, but it was by far her best as she posted a personal record “by six or seven minutes.”
“I was running really slow in the first half, but I threw the hammer down in the second half. My legs feel like lead and they’re a bit shaky right now, but my goal was to just finish and I was hoping to have a PR,” she added with a smile.
While Hamilton was the women’s winner, Lillian Gilmer was the women’s runner-up as she finished 26th overall in 3:21:33. Crissy Ivey was 28th for third in 3:22:24 while Christy Lynch was the fourth woman and 36th overall in 3:27:29.
Jennifer Funk was the fifth lady and 40th overall in 3:29:14.
Jack Findley was easily the overall winner in the Half-Marathon as he finished all alone in one hour, 14 minutes and 59 seconds. Findley had finished as the runner-up at the Joe Johnson Pumpkin 10K last month and he won the Ram Run 5K a couple of weeks ago, so he was more than ready when the cannon went KABOOM to signal the start.
Findley had a huge lead before the field exited Barnhardt Circle for the loop around the battlefield and his lead was even bigger when he finished as his margin of victory was almost 10 minutes over runner-up Thomas Cable, who was second in 1:24:42.
David Kieu was third in 1:25:01 while Ken Curran and Sean Giuffre were fourth and fifth with times of 1:26:53 and 1:27:55, respectively.
Laura Gold, a 31-year-old physical therapist from Atlanta who was a 2001 graduate of Dade County High School, was the women’s winner of the half with a time of 1:31:44, which was 14th overall.
Jennifer Stocks was the runner-up with a time of 1:32:14, which was 17th overall while Claudia Brinkruff, Jessica File and Eunice Campbell followed with times of 1:33:00, 1:36:32 and 1:36:56, respectively.
“I ran solo today,” said Findley, the 28-year-old commercial insurance salesman.
“I came out here today with very few expectations. I started off at about a 5:35 pace for the first eight or nine miles, but I tried to focus on running hard today. I’m excited about today’s effort and this is the best possible weather we could have asked for. They say this course has rolling hills, but those hills are a little bit deceiving at times,” he added.
Gold hasn’t been training as hard as she has been in recent months, which included a 3:12 at Boston in April. Despite that fact, she was all smiles when her race ended.
“I just wanted to enjoy it today. Given my training in recent weeks, I couldn’t have asked for a better race, but I’m really happy,” she added.
Shrum has really been on a roll in recent races. His previous best time was 2:52:38, so he was thrilled with Saturday’s results.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said shortly after completing the distance.
“The weather was perfect, but today was just my day. I really didn’t feel all that confident coming in, but I just tried to remember Boston and how bad I hurt that day,” the 47-year-old smiled.
“I ran with Scott Hamby today and the miles just clicked right by,” said Funk after winning the women’s 40-44 age group with a personal best of 3:29:08.
“It was a beautiful day and everything went really well, although I started hurting about mile 22. I always hit a low spot about that point in a marathon, but I felt strong coming to the finish line,” the slender CPA who makes things click at Erlanger added.
Tripp McCallie was another who had a personal best with a time of 3:11:22, which was 11th overall. He was second in the men’s 45-49 age group after averaging 7:18 for the distance.
“I was just fine for the first 25 miles. I stayed with Dean Thompson for the first 10 miles, but I just tried to slowly pick it up from that point,” he said, referring to the pacer for the 3:15 group that was right on target.
“I never walked, but I backed off toward the end. And I finished really strong as I ran faster at the end than I did the entire race,” he added.
There was also a 5K in the midst of the marathon and half-marathon and a couple of youngsters dominated that race.
Chase Faudi, a 12-year-old fellow from Soddy Daisy, was the overall winner in 19:09 while Mattie Parker was the women’s winner in 21:50. She’s a 13-year-old from Signal Mountain.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)