2012 Scenic City Trail Marathon winner Johnny Clemons writes about the race

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Thanks to R/C Race Team member and race winner Johnny Clemons for providing this report!

As an avid runner, I was very excited to run in the Scenic City Trail Marathon. My training has been going very well. The night before the marathon I had a “hot” date with my wife, Rachel. Speaking of hot, it was going to be in the 80’s the next day. We decided to dine at Olive Garden to load up on pasta. I was also hoping the heat would help rid of the sinus infection I was battling as I was having trouble breathing. Nobody wants to be short of breath during a marathon. I kept my mileage up with no real taper. I have big goals for future races.

After our date, I went home to prepare more for the race. I laid out my Rock/Creek gear and asked my R/C teammate Owen Bradley if I could use his signature trademark-writing Rock/Creek on the chest. After he joked that mine should be across my back for others to see, Rachel took out the Sharpie and it was official.

Waking very early the next morning at 4:40am, I was very groggy and short of breath. I looked like I had a wild night after seeing that the Sharpie ink had stamped Rock/Creek across my arm, face and bed. Note to self: Mark my chest the day of the race! For breakfast I had water, an egg, cantaloupe, and leftover spaghetti. I was fueled and ready to run so I started the drive from Cleveland, TN.

Driving up to the top on Raccoon Mtn. was like driving into heaven for me. Below I could see the mountains and clouds all around. Then there was this beautiful lake reflecting a bright orange sunrise as the fish were jumping all over. Arriving early to the race, many people were hard at work and prepared for the marathon and 1/2 marathon races. I was amazed to see Tom Sell hard at work parking cars because he was also racing today.

The start/finish line looked amazing and I was ready to cross it. Randy Whorton did a wonderful job with the setup! I walked around a little to say hi to friends then I sat to rest for a while. I also used this time to thank Jesus for this opportunity and for my family and friends. What a great place to have quite time with God!

I began to feel very relaxed so I started my walk slowly to the starting line. I was happy to see my Rock/Creek teammates, and I began to set my goal of using the first few miles as my warm-up to begin steady and just enjoy the race.

As the race was off I stayed far back. I wanted my first mile to be one of my slowest, at around 6 1/2 minutes. After about 2.5 miles, I started to work my way up to half-marathon record holder Daniel Mueller, who was running second behind Blake Davenport for the half marathon. Blake was about 30 seconds ahead. Daniel and I ran together working our way up to Blake. Daniel kept telling me to go around him. I said, “I’m in no hurry.” I just kept trying to encourage him to keep ahead in race and easily pick up the pace while we kept Blake in our sights.

Just before the split of the marathon and half marathon at just over 11miles, I told Daniel that he could win the half reminding him of the prizes he could win. Life came back into his legs as we caught Blake quickly. At the split I was sad to see them go. It would have been nice to run some more miles together. I wished them luck as I turned left and started to climb. Volunteers were surprised I was in front with the lead half-marathon runners and thought I was one of them. The pace felt very easy and I was now wanting to race. And for the record, Daniel did win the half-marathon!

I felt very strong going into the second loop and started to think I could break the course record. I felt like I was out doing a training run, nice and easy in pace. It was refreshing to have the shade because it was hot. A few miles into my second loop I began to lap runners. This made it a little tough! I must have said “excuse me” a hundred times. It is hard to yell and run fast at the same time.

A lot of runners seemed to have had headphones on so they couldn’t hear me coming and would step right into my path. I didn’t want to hurt anyone so I had run into the trees to get around them. It was very risky for me as I didn’t want to slow down. At one point, I took one really hard fall trying to avoid a runner and tweaked my shoulder, neck and bloody my knees . The fall was hard enough to bust my water bottle.

Without stopping to cry over spilled water, I carried on thinking why I can now see how some trail races don’t allow headphones. You may hate me for this, but this race should not allow headphones, just ask my shoulder neck and knees!

On the second loop, I began to put in some fast sub-6miles. It was hard to know for sure because my GPS didn’t get a signal the whole time. If you tried to measure the courses with a GPS you will find your GPS not accurate. I did find I put in a fast 5:21mile around mile 21. I was trying to make up lost time from my fall and lapping runners.

About a mile past the last aide station, I could hear the PA system. Wow! I can break 2:40! I thought and took off. But I was not close and it started to taunt me. I was sad to see 2:40 on my watch. The beautiful trail kept throwing me curve balls. I would switchback all through the woods up and down short hills.

Finally, I came out of the woods bloody, from the fall, and with my broken water bottle I was told I was close to the record. I looked at my watch thinking, but not remembering what the course record was-I missed it.

People were cheering for me to run and I did. I could not understand what they were telling me. I felt great with a lot of energy but did not sprint in. I missed the record by a mere 5 seconds. My Time 2:43:27!! Knowing some of the things that has happened, in my heart I really have the record. Plus it gives me a goal and something to look forward to for next year.

I felt great after the race. Not too sore or tired with the exception of my shoulder and neck from the fall, but the rest was fine. I really had a great time and my wife and I hung out for a while after the races to enjoy the food, people, and beautiful day. I also won some really cool stuff — I can’t wait to try out my Suunto Quest watch! I also won Salomon Trail Shoes, a Salomon XA skin pro hydration pack, North Face Tent, Smartwool Socks a medal, and plaque.

Here is what I wore in the race:

  • Size 10 Salomon Fellcross Trail Shoes: I have about 1,200 miles and won 5 trail races from 26.2 mile to 50 mile on these shoes. The same shoes! I don’t think they will ever wear out.
  • Smartwool Socks
  • Patagonia Shorts
  • Forerunner 205 Garmin
  • Sharpie Marker ink (after much scrubbing-not on my forehead!)
  • Salomon Water bottle

Rock/Creek does an amazing job at putting on races. I would like to take this time to thank all those who helped in this race. It was nice to have my wife, Rachel crew for me and to run with some amazing fellow marathoners. Thank you, this was truly an amazing experience.

I would also like to thank my sponsors: Rock/Creek www.rockcreek.com, PondEnviro of North America www.pondenviro.com, Chattanooga Integrated Medicine Center www.integratedmedicinecenter.com

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