Runners take off during Mountain City’s Mammoth 5K Run. The race was well attended and organizers are hoping it returns as an annual event. Photo by Dean Jones
By Dan Cullinane
The Mountain City Mammoth 5K Road Race, Johnson County’s first 5K in a quarter-century, exceeded expectations while raising funds for the Johnson County Senior Center, The Pregnancy Support Center of Johnson County, and Freddy’s Car Care. The sun had barely cleared the mountains on Saturday morning, and the mist still lay heavy in the valley, but eager runners from as far away as Georgia bailed out of cars at Ralph Stout Park and headed for check-in.
“The weather looks great, and we’re excited,” organizer Jackson Yates said as he walked over to check in with the local law enforcement, ensuring runner safety at the race. “It’s gotten bigger than we expected. I think we’re looking at 120 people by the time we start.”
Runners were enthusiastic that 100 percent of the funds raised would stay in Johnson County. Amber Greever, running her first 5K with friends Miranda Wilson and Katelin Brooks, singled out The Pregnancy Support Center as one of the reasons she was here today.
“It’s a really good cause, and there are women in this town who need it,” she said.
Michael Jordan from Mountain City, who ran with his cousins Bill and Chuck Walsh from Columbia, SC, is a big fan and supporter of Freddy’s Car Care, another Mountain City Mammoth funds recipient.
“Freddy Anderson helps the elderly with car care, replacing brakes, radiators, doing oil changes, checking and rotating tires. And all for free,” he said.
Running for a good cause is a family tradition for the Lovell’s. Carroll Lovell, 75, of Mountain City, his son Alan, and his 10-year-old grandson Nathan drove down from Roanoke, VA. “It’s fun to run with my Dad and my Papa,” Nathan said. “And it’s in my Papa’s hometown.”
Ten minutes before race time, the organizers lead the crowd in stretching, a quick lap around the park and on to the big uphill push to the high school. “I’ll tell you what’s nice,” Yates said, “once you reach the top of High School Hill, it’s all downhill from there.” All hundred or so were counting on that as they pounded through downtown Mountain City.
“That second hill was tough,” Chuck Walsh said when I caught up with him and his brother Bill afterward.
Alan Lovell is pleased with his results but more so for his son. “He passed Jackson in the tunnel,” he laughed, and sure enough, when the results came in, 10-year-old Nathan Lovell is two spots ahead of organizer Jackson Yates.
“I’ve never been happier to be beaten by a 10-year-old,” Yates told me. “And that’s my official quote.”
Overall, winner Christian Watson was happy with his 18:38 time, but the Sullivan East High School Cross Country Coach is equally excited about heading to Poblanos. “It was awesome, a great event,” he said. “And Mountain City has the best Mexican restaurant around.”
Larry Reece, a Mountain City native living in Johnson City who won his division (men over 60), brought a piece of Johnson County History along with him: The t-shirt from the Civitan 10K Road Run, which he ran in Mountain City in 1978. He doesn’t see 10Ks making a big comeback in his hometown, but he’s hopeful for more 5Ks. Runners have gathered at the finish line to greet the last few remaining runners, shouting above the laughter, music, and cheers, as co-organizer Jordan Roark was thrilled with how the event turned out.
“You can hear the morale,” he said. “That’s the community coming together. I feel blessed. This is a fantastic turnout. Back in April, Jackson and I were expecting maybe 50 people, so this blew my expectations out of the water.”
Neither Roark nor Yates was quite ready to commit to another 5K next year.
“We would like to,” said Yates. “We learned a lot this year that would help another event like this be even more successful.”
Early estimates indicate that the run raised between four and five thousand dollars, and today’s crowd’s enthusiastic response indicates that running has returned to Johnson County in a big way.
Men’s Top 5
Christian Watson, 26, Bluff City, TN
Stuart Martin, 21, Winston Salem, NC
Preston Visser, 36, Butler, TN
Kenny West, 47, Butler, TN
Nathan Lovell, 10, Roanoke, VA
Women’s Top 5
Amy Thompson, 21, Mountain City, TN
Aarin Kenaga, 59, Shady Valley, TN
Chelsea Crowder, 28, Mountain City, TN
Kendra Rodriguez, 25, Jonesborough, TN
Kelly Simcox, 35, Mountain City, TN