Despite the discouraging downpour that occurred just hours before the Viola Valley Half Marathon on Saturday morning, over 200 runners showed up from all over America to run the hilly course.
“We have lots of local runners, but also many from places we’ve never had here before,” said assistant race director Kevin Deason. “There is a lady from California and another lady from Hawaii who flew in to run. She’s trying to run a half marathon in every state and ours fell on her calendar.”
The money raised from the Viola Valley Half Marathon goes back to the community to help local residents going through a difficult time, to support Viola Valley Dogs, and to improve community buildings.
Runner Anthony Shelly, who has completed the 13.1-mile course five times already, said he’s drawn to this race because of the atmosphere, support and pretty scenery. For him, the most difficult part isn’t the course, it’s the travel to get to Viola.
“I live in Smyrna and I’m in a running group in Nolensville,” said Shelly. “I got up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready and I like to arrive a little early.”
The race course was saturated with volunteers who cheered runners on while holding posters saying things like “Toe nails are for losers” and “I’m an athletics’ supporter.” Many runners couldn’t wait to jump through the sprinklers and get sprayed with water guns toward mile nine.
“I need four more miles. Who wants to take over?” joked one sweaty runner in passing a volunteer.
Volunteer Zane Thaxton continually filled cups at her water station while blaring “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa in hopes the lyrics would motivate runners toward the finish. At one point, she even squatted down to hydrate a local dog that had joined the fun.
This year’s top female finisher came from Nashville. Stephanie Amack finished the course in 1:33:36, while Knoxville resident Bobby Holcombe was the overall winner with a speedy time of 1:28.37.