Jeff Parker Uses Running As Great Source Of Quiet Time

Youthful Minister Of Music Enjoying Benefits Without Racing

Thursday, July 2, 2015 - by John Hunt

A lot of people run for the social aspect while others run because they’re competitive and just want to see how fast they can cover the distance, especially in a race.

Jeff Parker doesn’t fit into either category.

He’s been running for more than 30 years and he’s quick to say that he enjoys it more now than ever, but his sole purpose is for time alone when he can meditate and relax while getting a good workout.

Jeff is the Minister of Music at First Baptist Church in downtown Chattanooga.  He says that he’ll celebrate his 52nd birthday on December 17, but he doesn’t look a day over 30 and there’s not even a speck of gray in his hair.

Parker grew up in Marion, Illinois, a small town about 150 miles north of Nashville.

He has a twin sister and an older brother who was an outstanding high school wrestler.  Jeff tried that wonderful sport for a couple of years, but his interest was more on music as he was a tuba player in the high school band and even served as drum major his senior year.

He attended the University of Illinois for a couple of years where he was in the band there as well, but he transferred to Belmont University in Nashville where he earned a degree in music in 1987.

“I sensed a call into the ministry about that time and I went right to Southern Seminary in Louisville,” he said while taking a break in his office earlier this week.

He served in several churches since graduation, including Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, N.C.

where he met a lovely lady named Jenny, who would become his wife on August 13, 1994.

They later moved to Winston-Salem where he worked for eight years and that’s where their two daughters were born.  Jordyn is the oldest and will be a freshman at Berry College this fall while Joci will be an eighth grader at Signal Mountain Middle/High School.

The family spent three years in Concord, N.C.  before moving to Chattanooga to start work on Jan. 1, 2008.

While Jeff loves music and family and all the things associated, he still has a deep love for running.

“I wanted to find a good source of exercise while I was at Illinois and that’s where I started.  My best friend had gotten a little chubby, so he started running and lost some weight.  I decided I’d do it too,” he recalled.

“Running was most important to me right after the girls were born.  I’d run for about 45 minutes every morning before they’d wake up and that gave me some quality quiet time.  I got in the habit of running before the sun came up, but it was relaxing and a nice time to get my head cleared,” he added.

Jeff still prefers to run alone, although he runs a race from time to time.  The Parkers live on Signal Mountain so he has run the Signal Mountain Pie Run a couple of times and he’s also run Missionary Ridge on three occasions.

“I really don’t like races.  I tried several in Winston-Salem and I ran one simply because I believed in the cause.  I run to relax, but I start playing head games with myself when I enter a race.

“I did one half-marathon about 20 years ago and might consider doing a marathon, but I think I’ve missed my window.  I have an eight-mile route I run from home, but the longer distances don’t come as easy as they used to,” he smiled.

While he prefers running those quiet and peaceful roads near home, he runs downtown on a couple days each week.

“When I learned how to settle into a good pace, I really enjoyed it as the benefits are far greater than just a form of exercise.  It’s my devotional time and a chance to process stuff in my head.  It’s good medicine for me and I always feel much less stressed when I’m finished,” he continued.

As was said earlier, he always preferred running early in the morning, most of the time before daylight.  That all changed about five years ago when he got hit by a car just two blocks from home.

He was really lucky as the only injuries he suffered were a broken wrist, two broken vertebrae and a concussion.  It could have been much worse.

“I don’t remember much about it other than it was still dark.  Jenny was awakened by a call from the Signal Mountain Police and I got to spend four days in the hospital,” he remembered.

At the same time, doctors also made another cricical discovery.

“They found a tumor on my left kidney during x-rays and it was eventually removed surgically in September after getting hit by the car in May.  It turned out to be something good that came out of a bad experience, but I promised Jenny and our two girls that I’d never run in the dark again,” he said with a serious tone.

Jordyn and Joci are no longer little girls and the need to run before they wake up is not as critical as it used to be.  His schedule now allows time for running later in the day.

“I used to be up by 4:30 in the morning, but once Jordyn started driving, I didn’t have to take them to school every morning. 

“I run for time now more than distance.  Running allows me to eat about anything I want, but I still have an appetite for unhealthy food,” he laughed.

Life is pretty good for Jeff Parker these days.  He loves his job and he’s still crazy about his family.  He’s found a way to mix a good run into all of the other daily activities. He comes from an active family, including his 85-year-old father Jim who’s been on the move all his life and still walks three or four miles every day.

It appears that Jeff wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and that he’ll be able to lead a long and productive life as well.

(This is the 57th in a series of features on runners in the Chattanooga area.  If you know someone who might make an interesting story, email John Hunt at

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