Jake Gillette’s first marathon in Georgia became his 39th victory at the 26.2-mile distance. Only 31 years old, he’s won half of the 78 he’s entered, all the wins having come in the last nine years.
The Goshen, Ind., elementary school physical education teacher won the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon on Saturday in 2 hours, 43 minutes, 38 seconds. He pulled away in the last five miles from Ooltewah’s Ken Curran, who was second in 2:44:39, beating his best previous time by almost three minutes on a sunny, nicely chilly morning.
“Unbelievable, man!” Curran praised Gillette at the finish line.
Turning to reporters, the runner-up said, “I was basically pacing him. When he went by me, it was awesome.”
Said Gillette: “The first 20 miles I was in his back pocket all the way. It was me and him, and I knew I had to stay with him.”
Deciding in recent years to run marathons in all 50 states, Gillette has reached 20, plus Ontario in Canada.
He had read about the Fort Oglethorpe-based race online but had not seen the course until Saturday. He admitted being “cautious” through the first loop through the military park — the oldest one in the country, and appropriately showcased on Veterans Day — but was only six minutes off his personal record.
“I just wanted to be in the mid-2:40s,” he said.
The women’s winner was very familiar with the course, by contrast.
Kaye Starosciak of Canton, Ga., ran the Battlefield Marathon in 2009 — as the women’s runner-up — and won it in 2010 and 2011, the latter with her first sub-three-hour time. Saturday was the first time she ran Chickamauga since then, but she has attended the race some of those years, she said, as a cheerleader for other Atlanta-area runners.
“We love this course,” Starosciak said. “It’s a great course and the temperatures are always good at Chickamauga. And it’s a fair course.”
There were “15 or 16” runners with her from the TrainATL training center Saturday, said the dietitian and wellness coach who now is working with Turner Broadcasting employees.
At 44 she said she was “not in P.R. shape” to try to beat her personal best set at Boston in 2013, the year of the bombing, but her 3:06:17 finish had her ninth overall. Sarah Getty of Maple Grove, Minn., was the second female finisher and 10th overall in 3:09:45.
Clint Hawkins of Marietta, Ga., was third overall in 2:58:28, and Jason Mayfield of Chelsea, Ala., was fourth out of the 334 marathon finishers in 3:00.46, Peter Volgyesi of Nashville was fifth and the masters winner in 3:02:54, and Adam Veron of Hixson was sixth in 3:03:31.
Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout John Gilpin won the 817-finisher half marathon by almost a minute in 1:13:26. Mason Chilmonczyk, teenager Adan Rodriguez, Keil Anderson and masters winner Ryan Shrum were second through fifth, and Sara Gibson of Chattanooga was the women’s winner and 14th overall in 1:27:57.
Both the marathon and half marathon are Georgia state championship races for the Road Runners Club of America.
The winners of the accompanying Fort Oglethorpe 5k were Salvador Castillo of Dalton in 17:45 and Paige Thompson of Chattanooga, fourth overall in 19:26. Andrew Highlander and Jakob Lee were second and third in 17:57 and 18:04.
Gillette had a cheering party Saturday with his wife, Laura, and their two children. This morning he gets to watch the kids during a marathon, as Laura will be running one in Louisville, Ky.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.