With just shy of 400 runners taking the road amidst overcast skies, the third annual Viola half marathon wound through the country roads before its winner set a new race record Saturday morning.
Jacob Shelton of Tullahoma led cover to cover and finished a full three minutes ahead of his closest competitor when he broke the tape at 1:20:10. He set a new record despite Viola being his first half marathon of the season. A half marathon is 13.1 miles meaning he averaged running a mile every six minutes on his way to victory.
“I wanted to improve my time from last year,” Shelton confessed, noting he finished second in last year’s Viola race.
While Viola was his first race this season, Shelton stays race ready as he runs from the Bryan College cross-country team.
Shelton finished three minutes ahead of second place John Eichert of Nashville. The one difference between Shelton and Eichert, aside from the three minute gap is that Eichert ran the race barefoot.
“It’s better for you to run this way,” Eichert declared after finishing in just over one-hour, twenty-three minutes.
Eichert runs between 18 and 30 races per year and almost always runs barefoot and bare-chested. He will wear shoes on some of the tougher courses. When asked if he could have finished Viola in a faster time if he had worn shoes, Eichert replied “I guess we’ll never know,” pointing out his preference will always be to run barefoot.
While not finishing first, Jennifer Berry from Nashville did have something to celebrate when she began Saturday’s race – her 30th birthday.
“I figured this was a great way to celebrate it,” Berry said as she stretched in preparation for the run. “This will be my third half marathon.”
As for the overall event, race organizers said the field was about the same size as last year’s race despite the threat of rain. The cool 45-degree morning did see a slight mist but nothing like the showers that were predicted. The Viola event went up against three other mid-state runs but the local event was the largest of the four.
There were entrants from all over the country including a man from Utah who is running a half marathon in each state of the union this year. He chose Viola as his Tennessee run. There were also entrants from as far away as Utah and Oregon. Proceeds raised go to several areas which include, but are not limited to the DARE program, Viola Valley Dogs and to aid those in need in the Viola area. Over 100 volunteers helped out in the event.
Additional information about the Viola Half Marathon, including top finishers, can be seen in the Sports section of Wednesday’s edition.