1. For those about to rock...runners wait for the start while race director Josh Hite, right, checks his watch. Photo by Martha Hite.
2. From left, Chris Estes finished second, Josh Hite first and Joshua Holmes was sixth. Photo by Joshua Holmes.
3. Anoine Moore finished first among women, fifth overall. Photo by Trent Rosenbloom.
4. Cookeville's Thomas Holt braved the heat to finish his second ever marathon. Photo by Trent Rosenbloom.
Name Age Gender City Time
1 Josh Hite 32 M Cookeville 3:32:07
2 Chris Estes 38 M Murfreesboro 3:43:44
3 Gary Krugger 25 M Edinboro, PA 3:54:36
4 Jeff Matlock 45 M Ashland City 3:57:21
5 Anoine Moore 43 F Pleasant View 4:04:38
6 Joshua Holmes 32 M Jackson 4:09:24
7 Dallas Smith 70 M Cookeville 4:32:11
8 Thomas Holt 33 M Cookeville 4:43:55
9 Naresh Kumar 27 M Chennai, India 5:33:46
10 Mikki Trujillo 34 F Cookeville 6:31:23
11 Angela Ivory 42 F Nashville 7:42:03
12 Diane Taylor 53 F Nashville 8:33:58
13 Bill Baker 59 M Nashville DNF
14 Trent Rosenbloom 40 M Nashville DNF
A Sucky Run
Looking up from the celly, Josh Hite interrupted the caller to confirm what he had just told him:
“Wouldn’t you say that the sucky part of the course was Cane Creek School parking lot?”
“Yeah, that’s about right,” I agreed.
Several runners were sitting around Josh’s dining room table eating, drinking and recovering from having just finished the first-ever marathon in Cookeville, Tenn. And Josh was talking to his friend about the course, specifically the sun-blasted part that meandered around the perimeter of Cane Creek Elementary School.
Here’s what do: Start at the Recreation Center in Cane Creek Park. Run down CC Camp Road to the Park entrance; circle Cane Creek Lake, returning to the center. Continue on the park path past the softball fields to the Tommy Thomas Bike Path on Jackson Street. Follow that path past the school a short ways and make a turnaround. On your way back to the center, just for good measure, detour around the perimeter of the school parking lot.
You will find that you’ve just run 5.24 miles. If you repeat that five times you will run precisely 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon.
At 7:00 a.m. last Sunday that is what 14 “elite fools” attempted to do: Run a marathon. In the South. In August. On a course largely exposed to the Sun.
Your doctor won’t recommend it.
How did such a thing happen? Credit elite Cookeville runner Josh Hite. A couple of months back he decided to host a marathon in Cookeville. He listed the “Event” on Facebook, sending messages to various running friends, inviting them to run it. At the time, he was calling it something like “Not Yet Named Marathon.” He advertised it as “NO FRILLS marathon... No certification. No shirt. No fee.” Along with the narrative, he also posted two inviting photos of Cane Creek Lake.
Enter Trent Rosenbloom, friend of Josh and the director of Nashville’s Flying Monkey Marathon, a joke of a marathon that has become the Rocky Horror Picture Show of all marathons, so popular that this year after online registration started, the race filled up in only 32 minutes. Trent knows how to promote a sadistic joke.
Trent hung the handle “Blister in the Sun Marathon” on Josh’s race and listed it on the website of the Marathon Maniacs. The name “Marathon Maniacs” explains itself.
Thus, the race was born, or at least a virtual storm of electrons about it was.
Replies rolled in: Maniac Jeff Matlock allowed “I’m in for the…No Name Run In The Sun Running is Stupid Hot Hilly Humid Marathon.” Later he tried to back out, calling it “crazy…insane.” But Josh shamed him into coming.
Photographer Elly Foster demurred, claiming, “As much as I would like to be in the company of such elite fools, I regretfully decline.” Susan Ford declined with the dubious endorsement, “This is crazy. I just love it.”
A smattering accepted. Josh switched to e-mail for those doomed runners, twice sending out race updates and bad news about hills and heat—six days before and 48 hours before. Those messages were addressed to “Masochists,” and ended with the signature “Sadist.” The last one announced, “You have only 48 hours until the soul in your shoes start to melt.” It’s not clear that the word “soul” in the place of “sole” was really a spelling error.
In any event, Sunday came, as it always does. Trees stretched their early morning shadows across the 14 runners standing on the pavement before the Recreation Center, where Queen City Timing had set up an electronic start/finish line.
We shoved off.
Josh was hoping to win his own marathon, but he was afraid of Gary Krugger, a compact, angular runner from Edinboro, Pennsylvania, who wears a plaited ponytail hanging to his waist and who had won the 2010 University of Okoboji Marathon. They took off together. The rest of us strung along behind, trotting along at various speeds.
The race dragged on. For me, it would be a special challenge to just finish. The night before I’d run the Race After Dark 8K (5 miles), which had started at 8:58 p.m. By the time I’d finished, taken a shower and had a snack, I got in bed around midnight. And I had to get up at 5 a.m. for the Marathon. I got precious little sleep. But there was a bigger factor than sleep deprivation—rest.
In lieu of competing in that 8K—a race he could have won, along with its prize money—Josh elected to pace me through the distance. His high-tech runner’s watch reads out instantaneous pace, distance, and elapsed time.
The state record for a 70-year old male is 37:00, and I was hoping to break it. Josh’s pacing helped me do that. I finished in 33:58, running an average pace of 6:48 per mile. I ran a pending state record, I was the first finisher over 55, and I won $100 prize money.
I had gone all out and saved nothing for the next morning’s marathon. In the last half-mile stretch my speed had steadily increased to 6:15. But at a terrible cost.
Now knee-deep in the marathon, I had to pay. I could only go slowly, a reality the heat would help assure.
On my first outbound pass toward the school I met extreme runner Angela Ivory. She is fighting cancer and cannot run as fast as she once could. After a bout some seven years ago, the cancer recently metastasized to her spine and has since spread to her liver, lung, and skull. Josh gave her an early start so that she would not finish so late in the day. She has completed some 170 marathons and 100-plus ultramarathons. A wounded warrior, she soldiers on.
Despite the heat and threat of cramps, my race ironically passed pleasantly. Ha! Thanks to going slow. It’s the racing that makes it hard, not the distance.
Drama started on my fourth lap. As I approached the boat ramp someone was calling. I turned to see Josh 100 yards behind. He was in his fifth and final lap, a lap ahead of me. He was alone and in the lead, but he had blown up.
I stood waiting. He was reduced to walking. He wanted company to help him keep going.
“Go with me,” he said.
He had done as much for me the night before. We went into the woods together.
“Dallas, this sucks.”
He was irrational, afraid Gary Krugger was going to catch him. Although Krugger was nowhere to be seen, Josh kept mumbling pace numbers:
“…if I can just run 10-minute miles…” Then a few seconds later: “…if I can run 12-minute miles…” Then he’d go over it again.
But it made no sense figuring pace without even knowing where Krugger was. Josh had dropped him on the second lap and then gone hard on his third lap to put him out of sight. In his fourth lap then he had gone deep into his energy reserves. Finally, now, he had hit bottom. He could only run brief distances, and then he had to walk again. He was obsessed with Krugger suddenly catching him.
We reached the high trail on the north shore. It offers a commanding view of the trail behind us, including the long levee. Krugger was nowhere to be seen. I looked at the woods across the lake.
“If he’s out there, he must be in the trees,” I said.
“He’d be over there,” Josh said, pointing farther back, along CC Camp Road.
I didn’t know why he was worried. To finish, Josh had only a half-mile to reach the center. After that all that was left was the two-and-half miles out-and-back to the school.
“He couldn’t catch you if he had a motorcycle,” I said.
Then I remembered where I’d last seen Krugger. Martha, Josh’s wife, had set up a table loaded with food and drinks in the shade at the center. When I left there on my fourth lap —which was slightly before Josh left on his fifth lap—Krugger wasn’t going to catch anybody.
He wasn’t running. He was standing in the shade having a hushed talk with his girl friend, a pretty blond woman named Morgan Cummings. She was on crutches from a stress fracture in her hip. She is a marathoner, too, and she sometimes even runs on her crutches.
We returned to Martha’s table, Josh yelling, “Ice water! Ice water!”
Krugger wasn’t there. We headed toward the school, Josh’s last segment, and suddenly met Chris Estes, a man with the physique of a body builder. He was maybe three miles behind Josh.
“Did you get Krugger?” Josh asked.
“Did you pass Krugger?”
“Way to go, dude.”
Josh had it. Krugger wasn’t even second; Chris was. And either one was farther behind Josh than Josh was from the finish line. Josh had only to go to the school, pass through the parking lot inferno, and return to the Center. He could walk all the way.
Which he mostly did, winning with 3:32:07, a time far off his capability. Chris held onto second, and Gary Krugger ended up third.
Meanwhile, Angela Ivory had joined with a friend, Diane Taylor. When Angela completed her last lap, Diane still had a whole lap to go. Angela decided to stay with Diane for another lap, thus covering a distance of 31.4 miles, 50K. Hence Angela finished Cookeville’s first marathon, and created, and finished ad hoc Cookeville’s first 50K ultramarathon.
Most runners talk about their PR, by which they mean “personal record,” or their best finish time. After this hot, hilly race, I heard a new term—PW, “personal worse.” I set one myself.
Twelve of the 14 starters finished. Once runners returned home, Facebook crackled.
Chris Estes thanked Josh for, “putting that insane race together.”
From Jeff Matlock: “The weather was too hot!...I’ll be back next year!!”
Trent Rosenbloom: “That was silly.”
Naresh Kumar, who calls himself the Indian Monkey, says he “…was stupid enough to continue with the race and foolish enough to finish it.”
Cookeville marathon virgin Mikki Trujillo summed it up: “That was the hardest thing I have EVER done…”