Thompson, Marlier Dominate Missionary Ridge Race

Thompson Challenges Course Record With Winning Time Of 23:41 On Saturday

Saturday, August 12, 2017 - by John Hunt

About the only thing ahead of Christian Thompson Saturday morning at the 45th running of the Missionary Ridge Road Race was the course record and even it was threatened.

Adam Pinkston set the current standard of 23:07 way back in 1986 and Thompson didn’t miss it by much as he finished the challenging out-and-back 4.7-mile race in 23 minutes, 41 seconds.

Runner-up Kevin Huwe wasn’t anywhere close as he finished more than three minutes behind in 26:44 while Andy Highlander was third in 27:39.  Dean Thompson and Ryan McGinniss completed the top five men with times of 28:27 and 28:59, respectively.

Jessica Marlier was the women’s overall winner as she finished sixth overall with an outstanding time of 29 minutes, three seconds.

Mary Ballinger was second among the ladies and ninth overall in 30:24 while Jennifer Huwe was the third female and 16th overall in 32:20.  Danielle Alfano and Kathryn Outlaw were fourth and fifth with times of 32:41 and 33:28, respectively.

As has been the case for virtually every running of this race, it was hot and humid for the 8 a.m. start.  Throw in a few nice hills along the way and it was a challenging event for everyone who participated.

Thompson knows just a little about running fast and he proved it Saturday as he averaged 5:03 per mile to win by a landslide.  He just started his fall marathon training and he logged right at 100 miles this week, so Saturday’s race was like a walk through the park for the 29-year-old sales associate for Fleet Feet.

“That was harder than the two-miler,” he said in reference to the Scenic City Scorcher he won on July 22nd with a state-record time of 9:39.

“I started my marathon training last week and I figured running a race would be more fun than a track workout.  It was a lot of fun as I’m very happy with how I ran.  I figured if I could break 24 minutes that I’d have a good day.

“I was all by myself after the first mile and I never looked back, but a course like this can be deceptive.  There’s really not a flat spot on the course, but it provides a good mental exercise to keep pushing the pace,” he added.

Marlier is two years older than Thompson and she too works for Fleet Feet.  She was second at the Scenic City Scorcher with a time of 11:31 in her last race.

“It was a good run as I’m just trying to race my way back into shape,” she said shortly after finishing while wrapping an ice-cold hand towel around her neck.

“This is a fun way to get a great workout and it’s a lot better than running circles on a track.  I broke 28 minutes on this course when I won in 2014, but I wasn’t close to that today.  Downhill running is my strength, so I just had to keep it going on the uphills.

“I feel like I pushed pretty hard today and I wanted to come support my friend Ryan Shrum, who is the race director.  But it’s always fun to support a great race with a great cause,” she added.

Huwe is a 30-year-old engineer for McKee Foods.  He was ready for a fast race when the starting horn sounded, but his legs didn’t respond like he wanted once things got started.

“I felt pretty good for the first couple of miles, but I got a little tired and my legs didn’t come back.  They were feeling really heavy and the hills felt a lot bigger than they did in training.  I didn’t purposely hold back, but I was out by myself for most of the race and I just tried to imagine someone being close to me.  Now I just have to figure out how to do better on the hills,” he concluded with a smile.

Highlander is also a civil engineer who will celebrate his 30th birthday this coming Wednesday.  He finished with a time of 10:40 at the Scenic City Scorcher, but he didn’t get credit for the record as there was a gentleman named Thompson who finished ahead of him that day.

He woke up early Saturday morning and went outside to assess the weather conditions before deciding at the last minute to enter.

“It was alright as I went out without any particular goals.  Christian and Kevin both took off pretty early and I was in a group with two or three others.  I kept going when we reached the turn as they dropped off a little.

“I’m happy with my effort and it’s hot and humid every year up here.  It’s hard race and I’m completely drenched,” he added.

Ballinger is also an outstanding 29-year-old runner – don’t know what it is about that age – who just recently moved to Chattanooga, but spends much of her time as the track and cross country coach at UT-Martin.

Saturday was the first time she had ever seen or even run this course, but she liked it from the start.

“This was my first time here and it was beautiful.  It’s really rare that you have a course this scenic, but the views were fabulous.  My goal today was to be in the top three women and to get a good workout.  I did both, so I’m happy,” she nodded.

There were 198 finishers in Saturday’s race with 81-year-old Wes Rehberg taking home the Arnold Godwin Award for being the oldest participant.  He finished 191st overall with a time of 65 minutes flat.

(Email John Hunt at

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