Recap: 2013 Scenic City Half Marathon

When my friend, Amanda (who lives in Nashville), told me she wanted to train and run her first 13.1, I gladly volunteered to run it as well. I poked around on the Web and somehow found the Scenic City Half Marathon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in late February. It was on a date that would work well for her schedule, it was close-ish to the Music City, and it slid right into my training plan for Flying Pig (with minimal rearrangement). We were set, and she began her training regimen. But like it has a tendency to do, life got in the way. Due to impending job interviews, she had to back out near the end of her training.

I was still determined to run the race. I’d already paid for it, and I was curious to see where my new-found speed would take me. I’ve set some goals for PRs this year, and I’ve been training harder than ever before. That means lots of hills and speedwork – two things I used to avoid.

I took off work Friday and drove down to get a good night’s rest before the game. Packet pick-up was held at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, which is a thing that exists. I think it was an old train station that’s been converted into a convention center-type building and maybe a hotel. I’m not really sure. There’s a Wikipedia page you could read if you’re really concerned.

The race field isn’t that big, so I was curious about how well-organized the event would be. I walked into the Choo Choo and discovered a mini expo of sorts. There was a staff full of happy volunteers helping people in neat, alphabetical lines. That’s where I met Courtney, a friendly volunteer who let me know she would be manning a turnaround point during the race.

See, Courtney? I told you I'd put you on this blog.

See, Courtney? I told you I’d put you on this blog.

It had been raining for several days prior to race day in the Chattanooga area, yet despite a dampness in the air, it wasn’t cold. I checked the weather one last time before falling asleep, and there was a 20% chance of precipitation the next morning. Rain isn’t such a big deal for those of you without glasses. But for those of us with vision that isn’t the best, running in the rain sucks. It’s annoying. You’re constantly trying to wipe water and/or condensation out of your line of vision.

Despite the comfy beds of the downtown Marriott (thank you, Priceline), I found myself in familiar night-before-a-race territory: waking up every hour. I finally rolled out of bed at 6:45 and got ready. Even with the lack of sleep, I wasn’t tired. My hotel was half of a mile from the start line at Finley Stadium, home of the UT Chattanooga Moccasins football team. The walk added a built-in warm-up to my morning.

There was a 5K race going off 15 minutes after the start of the half, so there were a ton of people milling about outside the stadium and inside a pavilion across the street. And since I didn’t know a single person running either race, I just wandered around taking pictures and generally acting creepy.

Krispy Kreme donuts before the race. Nice touch, organizers.

Krispy Kreme donuts before the race. Very nice, Chattanoogans.

When we lined up for the race, organizers had placed people holding pace markers behind the start line. It was a great touch – especially combined with the repeated warnings to line up correctly. I stood next to the 9:00/mile pace marker – the first time I would try to run that fast for this long. With blatant disregard for some of Dan Solera’s Rules for Racing, I fully expected to PR this race. Even more than that, I wanted to finish in under 2:00:00 for the first time.

This is the closest I've ever been to a start line.

This is the closest I’ve ever been to a start line.

After rousing renditions of both God Bless the USA AND The Star Spangled Banner (Nooga don’t mess around), we were off. The course followed the curve of the Tennessee River around the western side of Chattanooga before curling up into the bluff areas north of downtown. We ran past the Tennessee Aquarium and up a fairly large hill – all on a four-lane highway. After cresting the top of the incline, we began a gradual descent toward an industrial part of the city east of downtown. I recently bought a Garmin to track my pacing, and around mile 3, I glanced down to see I was running in the mid-to-upper 8s. I panicked slightly because I always have a tendency to start races way too fast and burnout toward the end. I needed to find a pacer – and fast.

As I’m wont to do, I name the runners who are pacing around me in a race. There was Vol, a woman who, despite not wearing a single article of orange clothing, reminded me of a Tennessee Volunteers fan. She kept spitting like crazy over and over. And there was That Guy, who was pacing just ahead of me and for whom I didn’t feel like putting forth the effort to give an actual name. Sorry, That Guy.

And then there was Connie. I didn’t name her that. Several people had shouted out to her, and she was a spunky little woman who was cruising along with little effort. At mile 4, I took a quick water/walk break and then decided to approach her to see if we could be race friends. Our conversation went something like this:

“‘I’ve heard people yelling, ‘Go Connie’ at you. Is your name Connie?”


“How fast are you running this?”

“I lined up with the 10:00 pacers, but I’m going faster than that. You?”

“I’d like to run a 9:00 pace. I’m looking for a pacing buddy.”

“Cool. Let’s do that.”

Hold up a minute. This woman lined up with the 10:00 group, and on a whim, she decides to trim off an entire minute? Well, okay. Let’s do that then.

Like I said, Connie is a slight woman, but she has a big personality. She talked and talked about Chattanooga, pointed out where she worked, commented on the course and the revitalization of the areas where we running, and gave me restaurant tips for after the race. The conversation made the miles melt away, and before I knew it, we were climbing a steep hill back into the arts district. We were running somewhere in the 8:50 range, and I still felt awesome. I took a walk break when I felt I needed it, and then caught back up.

We crossed the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge into the North Shore area of Chattanooga, ran for a short stretch down a gentrifying street, and turned back toward downtown across Veterans Bridge. At the end of the bridge, we began to retrace our steps back to where we started. I took one last walk break through a water stop, but Connie continued on. With less than two miles remaining, I was thrilled to have some legs left. At mile 12, I decided to pick it up a bit, and my last split was the fastest of the race.

Amanda took this pic near the finish line. See how fast it looks like I'm going?

Amanda took this pic near the finish line. See how fast it looks like I’m going?

I made one last turn back toward the start/finish line and glanced at the clock. I was elated (even though my Garmin had let me know I’d probably hit my goal).

Official chip time: 1:55:54

I had PR’d by nearly 20 minutes. I was so happy that I gave myself an uber-douchey fistpump. Volunteers cut off my shoe chip and placed the medal around my neck. Connie finished about 30 seconds ahead of me (and won her age group). And Amanda had come down from Nashville and saw me finish, which was awesome.

Me, my medal and the worst example of a beard you'll see on the Internet today.

Me, my medal and the worst example of a beard you’ll see on the Internet today.

Me and Connie, post race.

Me and Connie post race.

After stretching and showering, Amanda and I headed out to grab some food and check out the city. We took a free trolley toward the river and the arts area. Chattanooga is not what I expected. There seems to be a huge investment in preserving the historic parts of the city while complementing them with modern touches.


TGI FRIDAYS!!! Also, the Tennessee Aquarium is behind it.


From the arts district looking toward North Shore

The Hunter Museum of American Art

The Hunter Museum of American Art


The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge links downtown Chattanooga to the North Shore

The people were friendly, and that seemed especially true for the race volunteers/organizers. I can’t say enough good things about how well this race was run, and if you ever want to run a fun half in a cool city, I would recommend Scenic City in a minute.

Scenic City sway, yo.

Scenic City swag, yo.

Keep running, friends.


18 responses to “Recap: 2013 Scenic City Half Marathon

  1. Hey Glenn! I see you delivered on the picture (EEEK, that’s what hours of pulling shirts and doing race registration makes me look like?), and I’m delivering on the blog stalking!

    Sadly, I gave you misinformation about my location for race day. (Hours of pulling shirts and doing race registration will do that to a person!) I was actually at the 5K turnaround, which in the middle of the last horrid hill at about mile 11.5/12ish for the half marathon. We had tons of extra cups and water left over from the 5K runners, so since I was staying there as a sentry while the 5K water stop volunteers headed to the finish, I decided to turn it into my own personal makeshift water stop. I was the lone girl shouting at people that that hill was almost over and to stay in the left lane while pouring water into cups. 😉 Which meant that I can’t deliver on a picture of you mid-race because I’m not an octopus.

    But, the next time you’re running in the Chattanooga area, let me know and I promise to try better next time.

    Glad you had good time, both at the run and in the area, and nice to meet you! 🙂 And great job going sub-2! Congrats!

    • Thanks, Courtney! The race was awesome. I can’t say enough nice things about the organization and the volunteers. It seemed like everyone was having such a great time.

      I think I remember a lone volunteer manning a water stop around mile 12. To be honest, at that point all I could think about was finishing. 🙂

      I really enjoyed myself, and the city was fantastic. I’m definitely recommending visits there. Thanks again!

  2. Starship Glenterprise, kickin’ ass and breaking the 2-hour barrier — huge props! It’s so glad to see that the hills and speed workouts are paying off. Has this stoked your confidence? Careful, because it will eventually turn into hubris and you’ll find yourself smoking your PR again.

    I like that you went for the header outfit – it’s like I traced that finish line picture. And no apologies for the beard. Ants don’t apologize for lifting fifty times their body weight and narwhals don’t feel remorse when they sink ships.

    Well done, sir.

    • Starship Glenterprise might just be your best one yet.

      Thanks for the accolades, D-Money. The race itself was so much fun that I didn’t really pay attention to how fast I was running at times. You know, except for the watch on my arm tracking splits to the millisecond. And yes – it was a nice confidence builder. I didn’t hit a time goal on the last long run before the race, so I was hoping for some extra adrenaline and oomph to push me over the line.

      How about that picture? It’s almost identical to the one you drew! That coincidence wasn’t lost on me when I saw it for the first time. Same clothes and everything. I gotta get some new duds.

      Here’s to beards and PRs!

  3. Glad you found my blog! I just added yours to my Google Reader feed. How awesome to PR by over 20 minutes!!! I have yet to break two hours for the half. Right now, my PR is 2:02:50. And by the way, I know Connie! Small world. Happy Running!

    • Thanks, Paige! I’m adding your blog to my feed, too.

      The PR was the cherry on top of a fun time in Chattanooga. You guys have a great town. I had a blast there.

      I think everyone knew Connie! She just seems to be one of those outgoing people everyone knows.

      If you guys are looking for a fun race, come run the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon in April. There’s a ton of crowd support, and it’s a flat-as-a-pancake course.

      Thanks again! Looking forward to more of your recaps.

  4. Hell yeah Glenn! There’s nothing better than smashing a PR! Nice work. Let me know if you’re interested in running the Bangalore Ultra with me next November.

    • Thanks, Dave! I won’t lie – it felt great. Not exactly the same experience you had in your first “race” as an expat, but still, it was fun.

      Bangalore ultra, eh? That’s a race recap I can’t wait to read!

  5. Back-to-back halfs? Impressive!

    I’m looking forward to Flying Pig. It’s close enough that my family can come watch.

    Keep training on those hills. You’ll need it for Cincy!

  6. Awesome for the PR, Glenn. I’m sitting here in two feet of snow cheering you on! The best part for me, though, is reading “…walk…” Gives me confidence for later in the year. Good luck with the Flying Pig!

    • Thanks, John! All of this cold weather has me wondering just what compelled me to train for a spring race in the first place. Happy running!

  7. Pingback: Runner’s knee | See Glenn Run·

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