Adam Pinkston’s course record for the annual Missionary Ridge Road Race is safe for another year.
Local running standout Christian Thompson took a legitimate shot at the mark of 23:07 that had been set in 1986 and won last year’s race in 23:41.
Thompson successfully defended his title in the 46th annual event on Saturday as he crossed the finish line at Bragg Reservation with another outstanding effort, winning with ease with a time of 23 minutes, 49 seconds.
Lucas Cotter, a former winner on this course, was the runner-up as he finished well behind Thompson with a time of 24:57 while John Gilpin, a two-time winner in 2015 and 2016, was third in 25:15.
Kevin Huwe, who was second a year ago, was fourth this time in 25:57 while Rodney Stoker completed the top five with a time of 26:16.
Paige Thompson, Christian’s wife, was the female overall winner as she averaged 6:19 per mile in posting a time of 29 minutes, 39 seconds, which was 11th overall.
Jennifer Huwe was the runner-up in 31:01 and 15th overall after taking third in 2017 while Haley Moody was third in 32:16.
Ivy Chastain and Janis Kelman were fourth and fifth, respectively, among the ladies with times of 32:28 and 35:11.
It wasn’t quite as hot this year as it was last, but the humidity was still present. In other words, it was another typical August morning for the third oldest race on the Chattanooga Track Club’s schedule.
The Thompsons didn’t waste any time taking charge as both had significant leads within the first mile.
From that point on, it was only a matter of who would win the battle for the runner-up spot.
“I ran a lot faster than I thought I would, so I’m really happy with it,” Christian admitted after another winning effort.
“I never felt amazing as those guys kept me honest. I was in the lead pretty quick, but I could still hear them for a while. Paige and I will be running the Berlin Marathon in five weeks, so I just wanted a good effort today. I wasn’t feeling so sure of myself earlier in the week, but today’s race really helped my confidence,” the 30-year-old Fleet Feet employee said with a smile.
Paige had never run this race before Saturday and really didn’t know what she would be facing, but it’s obvious the 27-year-old optometrist was more than ready for the hilly out-and-back challenge.
“I felt pretty good today,” she said with a smile and admitted shortly after claiming first place and the $100 prize money for the overall winner.
“I really didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never run this course, but I really enjoyed it and it was a fun race. I had talked to some other runners and I had good warning about the hills, but I had a good run.
“Now we’re looking forward to the marathon in Berlin as I hope to break three hours there,” she stated after noting that she set her own PR of 3:02 at Boston in April under horrible conditions.
Cotter’s personal best of 24:40 was set when he won here in 2011. He wasn’t far off from that time seven years later.
“It was fun, but this course is tough as always,” the 26-year-old accountant for TVA and former UTC standout expressed.
“I was hoping to average 5:20 miles and I think I came pretty close, so I’m happy with that, but give Christian a lot of credit as he drug us along.
“He put a gap on us early, but I just tried to keep him in sight. I knew that John would be breathing down my neck and he was, but I’m elated with my time as I kind of surprise myself today,” he said after averaging 5:19 per mile.
“Gilpin is now working for Summit Physical Therapy after finishing PT school earlier this year. He too is a former UTC standout and he proved on Saturday that he still has the ability to post fast times.
“Lucas and I were both hoping to run well and also hoping that Christian wouldn’t have such a good day, but my time today was comparable to two years ago. It hurt a bit more today than it did then as this is a tough course from the start.
“I’m just hoping to run fast at the Cam Run in two weeks as that’s what I’m focused on,” Gilpin added.
Jennifer Huwe was another runner who had a positive experience on Saturday.
“I shaved about a minute off of last year’s time and also improved my place, so I’m really pleased,” said the 28-year-old, who works in quality assurance at McKee Bakery.
“I could see Paige until we got to the turn around, but I never really challenged her. All I know is that I ran better than last year. I really like this race and always appreciate the residents along South Crest Road who come out to cheer us on,” she said while nodding.
Rossville’s John Smithson was the recipient of the Arnold Godwin Award as the oldest participant as the 78-year-old gentleman finished with a time of 1:24:47 to claim that honor. He was 309th overall and the last finisher for the challenging race.
Ryan Shrum served as the race director for the fourth straight year after being one of the front runners for a dozen years. He was feeling really good about the way things turned out.
“I’m real ecstatic with the numbers as we had the biggest field in more than 20 years,” he said.
“I’m really glad that everyone showed up and we had some really fast runners competing for both overall titles. The race volunteers are the ones who make this a special race and they all stepped up again today. Everything has run smooth so far.
“People in this neighborhood have supported this race for the past 46 years and it’s become a classic. I’m just thankful to be part of it,” he said with a smile.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)