An early-morning shower made things interesting for the 51st running of the Chickamauga Chase races Saturday morning at Chickamauga Park, but it certainly didn’t put a damper on the spirit of the longest running events for the Chattanooga Track Club.
There were three races held at the same time Saturday with the 15K main event attracting 227 finishers while the 5K had 324 finishers and the challenging eight-mile trail run had 110 finishers.
Former UTC track and cross country standout John Gilpin has won a lot of track club events, but Saturday was the first time he’s competed in the 9.3-mile race that is one complete loop around the historical military park.
He ran all alone for most of the distance as he averaged 5:26 per mile in posting a winning time of 50 minutes and 33 seconds.
While the 27-year-old physical therapist cruised comfortably to the finish line by Wilder Tower, the real race was for second place as Noah Cochran was able to outsprint Joe Wilson for that honor.
It looked like they finished side-by-side, but Cochran was declared ahead with a time of 53:43 while Wilson had a time of 53:44.
Renee Jackson, a 33-year-old stay at home mother from Athens, Ga., was the overall female winner in the 15K with a time of 1:05:53, which was 14th overall while Rachel Nokes and Caitlyn Moro followed with times of 1:09:51 and 1:11:09, respectively.
Jerryd Tennyson was the overall winner in the 5K with a time of 17:45 while Kristen Bonsor was the female 5K winner in 20:49, which was eighth overall.
Mitchell Kohlmann and Lindsay Mies were overall winners in the eight-mile trail run with times of 56:40 and 1:03:44, respectively.
Despite the light rain that fell before the races began and again shortly after they ended, it was a beautiful morning to be out in the woods where some of the most fierce fighting took place in the Civil War. The flowering trees were in bloom and as always, there were plenty of deer sighted by the runners as they covered their respectively courses.
Gilpin is originally from Nashville, but has made Chattanooga home in recent years and is now working for Summitt Physical Therapy. He’s done a lot of long runs in training with the UTC folks, but Saturday was his first time to actually do the Chase.
He was hoping to average 5:20 per mile, but he had to settle for a 5:26 pace as he was all alone as he turned the last corner and headed for the finish line.
“That was fun, but did it look okay?” he joked shortly after his race ended.
“I was running alone most of the way and found it hard to keep pushing under those conditions. There was a car on the course about the seven-mile mark that opened a door and I almost hit it, but I picked up my pace and ran pretty hard the rest of the way.
“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training in recent weeks and that’s making a big difference, but I had a good run today,” he said in his usual quiet tone.
Cochran is a math major at UTC who just celebrated his 20th birthday on Wednesday. He had a tough week of training and entered the race somewhat tired, but he simply refused to lose in the final 100 yards.
“I felt a little tired at the start as I had a big week of training, but I was hoping to get in the low 50s,” he explained later.
“I ran with Joe most of the way and I think that got the best out of both of us. It was really close at the end as there was no separation, but I loved the history of this place and I’ll definitely come back again. I’m happy with my time as that was the best I could do today,” he suggested.
Wilson is a 23-year-old Fit Specialist for Fleet Feet who lives in Fort Oglethorpe and runs these roads on a regular basis. He did his absolute best to hold off Cochran, but wasn’t able to.
“From the five-mile mark to the finish, we were back and forth the whole way. I’m really happy with my time and Noah had a great race too. When I saw him pass me at the end, I told myself I couldn’t give up now,” he nodded.
Jackson lives in Athens now where she’s a stay-at-home mom for her two children ages four and six months. She grew up in Flintstone and graduated from Ridgeland in 2003, so she too was familiar with Saturday’s course.
“I just wanted to run fast and my goal was to win,” she said while catching her breath afterward.
“I was pregnant when I ran this race last year, so my time was a lot faster today. I had a girl pass me early in the race, but found out she was running the 5K. I’m training for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in three weeks and that should be fun, but I’ve run this race at least 10 times and always enjoy running in the park,” she explained.
Kohlmann is a 37-year-old Chattanoogan who works in metal fabrication. Saturday was his first trail race and it turned out to be a good one.
“It wasn’t bad. There were a few spots where it got sticky, but my goal today was simply to have fun. I was able to develop a good rhythm and took the lead between the third and fourth mile. I never looked back after that,” he said.
Mies, like Jackson, is a stay-at-home mom with children ages three and five. She loves running trails and totally enjoyed her experience on Saturday, but was careful once the footing became a bit more treacherous.
“It was muddy out there, but what a pretty morning for a race,” she said while doing some post-race stretching.
“My watch died at the start so I never knew what my time was, but I was just glad it didn’t rain too hard. I don’t like taking chances as I really didn’t want to fall, but I had fun today. It’s been a long time since I ran out here,” she concluded with a smile.
Jack McFarland was present on Saturday with his lovely wife Alma, but for the first time in the history of the Chickamauga Chase, he didn’t run or walk.
McFarland, who was one of 110 finishers in the first Peachtree 10K, has slowed considerably in recent years. Last year, his four children and one grandchild joined him and his wife as he walked the 5K for the last time. He was recognized for his long-term dedication to running in general and to the Chickamauga Chase in particular and bib number 50 was then retired from further use in this race.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)