The Chattanooga Track Club

Promoting Running and Fitness in Chattanooga

By John Hunt
Posted: Monday, October 13, 2014

Mike Walker had never run a 10K race before, so he really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Sarah Woerner is just coming back from hip surgery, so she wasn’t making any bold predictions either.

Both of these are outstanding runners and it showed on Saturday morning as they captured overall titles in the 30th Annual Great Pumpkin Run 10K, which was held at the Johnson Mental Health Center on the campus of Moccasin Bend.

Walker won the Turkey Trot 8K last Thanksgiving at the Sports Barn in 26 minutes flat, but he had never officially run a 10K, but he did just fine as he crossed the finish line in 34 minutes, nine seconds.

Woerner, registered as Susie Q, wasn’t far behind as she finished 17th overall in 42:10.

This race is certainly the flattest on the Chattanooga Track Club schedule as it’s out-and-back past WGOW before making a U-turn and heading back to the finish line.

Walker was running with Jack Findley and Andy Highlander for the first few miles, but he put the hammer down on the way back and the others couldn’t respond.

Findley ended up second in 34:47 while Highlander was third in 35:15.

The top three women were all within striking distance of each other as runner-up Bekah Houston was 19th overall in 42:55. Jeanette Wilson was the third lady and 20th overall in 43:21.

“Jack and I took it out from the start, but the race never really materialized. I had never run a 10K before, so this was nice. I’m not really crazy about out and back courses, but this one was nice, especially on the way back,” the 24-year-old employee of Fast Break Athletics said shortly after he finished.

“I don’t ever want to predict that I’m going to win, but I was expecting to do well today. I never underestimate the competition, but I pulled away at about four and a half,” the former Red Bank High graduate added.

Findley is a 28-year-old gentleman in the commercial insurance business. He’s a Chattanooga native who had been living in Jackson, Tennessee, but he just moved back a couple of weeks ago.

“We just tried to work together, but overall, it was a great run for me as I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things,” Findley said after catching his breath.

“I ran hard today, but that was my goal. But it’s a great start to my racing season,” he added.

Highlander is still basking in the glory of the Air Force Marathon three weeks ago where he finished fourth overall in 2:38:18. His legs were still just a bit tender on Saturday, but he proved that he’s capable of running up front.

“I went out with Mike and Jack, but they put a move on and I backed off as my Achilles was hurting just a little. I took a week off after the marathon and I felt pretty good today, but I knew it wasn’t in the cards. I had to adjust my pace a little bit on the way back,” the 27-year-old civil engineer nodded.

Woerner is a 25-year-old wellness teacher at Tyner Academy. She had hip surgery at the end of June to repair a torn labrum. She did a lot of biking and swimming during her three months away from running, but she didn’t lose too much as she cruised to victory on Saturday.

“I couldn’t run a step for three months and I’ve been back about two or three weeks, so I really had no idea of what to expect,” she smiled afterward.

“I just wanted to go as hard as I could as long as I could and I’m happy to say that my hip didn’t hurt. I had forgotten just how it felt to run that hard, but it feels so good to be out here competing again,” she concluded.

Houston is a 20-year-old sophomore at Georgia College who is a nursing major. She was a standout cross country and track competitor at Dalton High School.

“I haven’t run a 10K race since high school, but this was really a fast course. I was just hoping to average seven minutes per mile and I was about 6:55, so I’m happy,” she said while visiting with friends afterward.

Wilson is a 33-year-old registered nurse at Siskin who was just hoping to run a little faster than she did two weeks ago at Raccoon Mountain.

“I went out really fast. It felt good because It was raining, but I just run for fun and don’t even wear a watch. But I was hoping to be faster than my time two weeks ago and did was almost a minute faster, so I’m happy,” Wilson said after a few cool-down miles.

Tim Ensign was fifth overall in 36:31 and the masters champion. The 51-year-old Ensign was the overall winner in this race the first year it was held in 1984 with a 31:05 and he claimed first at least three other times.

“I did okay for an old guy as I ran pretty well. I got tired on the way back. I won this race in three different decades and I had my day, but it gets harder. Ryan Shrum was catching me at the end, but he ran out of real estate. He would have beaten me if the course had been just a little bit longer,” Ensign said.

Gage Whited was the youngest competitor as the seven-year-old finished 37th overall in 50:30, which is an 8:08 pace.

“I was just hoping to run faster than last year and I beat it by four minutes,” the second grader at Fairyland said.

The next race on the Chattanooga Track Club’s schedule is also a 10K with just a few more hills. It’s the Pie Run on Signal Mountain, which will be held on Oct. 25.

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