SMOKY MOUNTAIN HALF MARATHON / 5K - February 24, 2001

An energetic new sponsor, English Mountain Spring Water, was on board for the 2001 Smoky Mountain Half Marathon/5K, held in Townsend, Tennessee, on the peaceful side of the Smokies.  This year's event was transformed from the historic marathon / 8K format due to the voluminous road construction projects ongoing in Townsend.
A young road racing fan with a passel of three younger road racing fans await the start on a gorgeous cool morning. 
First-time race director Julia Langdon addresses the large crowd immediately prior to the race.  Her gun-toting henchman, John Burleson (who also moonlights as CEO of English Mountain Water) readies himself for the impending shooting. 
As the gun sounds, 5Kers and Half Marathoners alike burst into frenzied motion.  Jon Lawler (blue shirt not quite halfway from left) is already checking his split time, with less than 13.1 miles to go..
A hundred yards into the race, intense concentration is already evident on the faces of competitors Allen Etheridge (sunglasses), Lawler, Derek Griffiths (in white hat), Kevin Carraher (red singlet) and others.
Etheridge, an accomplished triathlete heading for Hawaii Ironman this year, finished 2nd in the 5K (16:02) and was heard immediately afterward wondering, "Hey, where's the bike transition?".
Griffiths, a 25-year old from Cincinnati, ran 16:43 to take 3rd overall.
Carolyn Wares and Matthew Bounds of Knoxville duel in the final straightaway.  Wares, who ran 21:38, was 3rd overall female, while Bounds, clocked at 21:39 was 4th in the men's 30-39 age group.
5K race director Kim Swicegood is all smiles as racers amble through the finish chute under the watchful eye and quick fingers of Shady Jack Payne in his black Stetson.
Meanwhile, out on the back forty, marathon veteran Jack Carlson cruises effortlessly just past the four mile mark of the half marathon course. 
A queue of runners mosey down long backcountry roads along Carr Creek.
Many more of the 284 contestants in the half marathon approach the five mile mark under gorgeous sunny skies.
Lou Ann Magden is still smiling as she paces smoothly alongside the creek.  She ended up fifth in the women's 45-49 age group..
An envious cow gazes on David Hylton and his chase pack.  the cows got pretty worked up a number of times, and a few runners were seen eyeing the bovines nervously.
Robert Preston of Athens TN extends his lead near the nine mile mark.  Preston won the half marathon in 1:15:16, holding off a strong late race charge from Jamie Dockery.
At nine miles, Straw Plains winner Bobby Holcombe was still in contact with Preston and looking svelte in his race day haircut.
Looking somewhat less recently shorn than Holcombe, KTCer Jamie Dockery accelerated past Holcombe and finished a strong second, just 27 seconds behind the winner.
Not far behind the leaders in hot pursuit was Andy Baksa of Farragut, an all-state runner in track and cross country.  Andy finished fourth overall in a fine time of 1:18:15.
A pair of Chattanooga Track Club masters aces duked it out for honors on this day.  Black-shirted Mitch Keebler was barely edged by Robert Daniel by one second for overall masters.
Usually overdressed on cool weather race mornings, KTC's Bobby Sumpter dresses down to look cool and collected en route to 2nd place in the men's 40-44 age group.
Female overall champion was Marsha Morton of La Follette, who was second at the recent Strawberry Plains Half Marathon in January.  Marsha, who holds a commanding lead in the KTC Grand Prix, ran 1:26:29 to outlast runnerup Melanie Whitson by more than five minutes.
Finishing strong in the shadow of the Smokies was 53-year old Mike Marchant, who ran 1:30:52 to win the men's 50-54 age group.
The aforementioned Jon Lawler, who finished fifth in the half marathon with a very respectable clocking of 1:19:00, has held the record for running the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee from Davenport Gap to Fontana Lake.
Perhaps looking skyward for divine inspiration, Bruce Fox readies himself for the final charge, as he is about to overtake Wayne Baker of Cleveland TN.  Bruce won 2nd in his age group, running 1:37:50.
Former KTC President Brint Adams still has some knee lift left as he digs in to hold off the challenge of orange-clad Bill Bilbrey.
Triathlete Ed McAllister, owner of River Sports, kicks it in as he finishes the half marathon.
As the day of grand effort concludes, the waters of the Little River continue to flow effortlessly downward toward its rendezvous with the Tennessee some thirty miles away, oblivious to the sojourn of hundreds of runners and spectators who, by nightfall, were back in their homes.  The Knoxville Track Club thanks all participants, both runners and volunteers, who made the delightful trip to Townsend on a spectacular early spring morning for the running of the Smoky Mountain Half Marathon.  KTC is exploring possible courses to return to the marathon distance next year, so stay tuned to the website and the magazine for updates.


Photos by Michael deLisle. Thanks to Angie Manis for the use of her Sony Mavica.

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