Sunday – March 28, 2021
When you head out of town for one race on a weekend, it is a waste not to look for another on the weekend. And, we found a pleasant surprise in the foothills of Tennessee… Sweetwater!
After Jennifer had nice run in Tuscaloosa, we got on the road and headed to Sweetwater for the Inaugural Sweetwater Valley Marathon, Half Marathon and Relays. The race was organized by the Knoxville Track Club, headed by its director, David Black. Apparently, Knoxville as a city has been rather tight with the Covid-19 restrictions and and planned races had been either cancelled, postponed or denied a permit.
Then came the town of Sweetwater, just south of Knoxville. “Sure… come on down and take your shoes off… set a spell… then put on your running shoes. Be glad to have you!” The town was very supportive using it police force and City road crews for managing intersections… even the fire department was helping out! Some downtown shops near the Town Gazebo and Train Depot opened up their stores early for the participants! The whole town was very welcoming!
We stopped at the Gazebo in the afternoon so that we could drive the course. The Gazebo is where the race start line would be. We saw a truck with race stuff on it and a few people working around it. We stopped to ask a few questions. That is how we met the Race Director, David. He was excited to hear about Jennifer’s adventures, answered our questions then asked us to join him and some other at the Italian place across the street for dinner. Of course we accepted!! Bullie loves Itialian and a cold draft beer.
After driving the course and realizing it was a bit hillier than Jennifer thought, we headed to the restaurant, Vittorino’s Cucina. Hills means you have to carb up… or drink enough so that you forget the hills! We joined David and some of his staff from Knoxville along with a gentleman from NC and a very enjoyable trio of runners from Illinois. Bullie always has to flirt with the ladies!
It was a great time sharing stories and getting to know some new friends! We both left very impressed with Knoxville Track Club!! This would be a good race!
We woke up Sunday morning to lightning and thunder and thought for sure the race wasn’t going to happen! The 7:30 start was delayed until 8:00. Before 7:30, the storm system, the same one that hit Nashville the day before, had moved through and the rain lightened up. We were all set to go!
At the start, the race weaved through downtown before heading out High Street to the High School where it circled the campus. The students had made signs with each participant’s name and where they were from!! They hung them on a fence that the runners would pass by! That was pretty awesome, though the rain had helped some to fall off but I have never seen that kind of town support!!
Then it was back to the highway and into our first neighborhood that included some nice homes and an exit on a greenway back to the highway! The rest of the race would be made up of neighborhoods and pretty countryside! Many of the roads were closed to traffic and those that were not were well managed by law enforcement and volunteers!
A final trip through a recreational area and elementary school would soon have us on the final stretch. Of note, the students at the elementary school had made motivation signs to display. Really cool! The it was back downtown and the finish line at the Historic Train Depot!
As a band was playing in the nearby Gazebo, pizza and a variety of snacks awaited us with a nice unique medal. It was a banjo!! Jennifer will hang it next to my Mississippi Blues guitar medal and think of the Dueling Banjos song every time I see it!! Bullie says, “what about dueling cowbells???”
KTC (Knoxville Track Club) did an exceptional job with this inaugural race. Knoxville runners apparently love KTC with passion. They support their races because they know they will get a good product. Honestly, most of the racers where from the Knoxville area, starving for a live race But runners from Sweetwater and towns nearby turned out as well, along with some foreigners from other states!!
As Jennifer mentioned before, the course was not flat. It was possibly normal for the Knoxville and Sweetwater folks but not these Mississippi folks. Will that prevent us from coming back. Absolutely not! It was a very good race! If Jennifer does it again, I will be asking everyone to consider this small town treasure next year!!