James Pearce is in Chattanooga for a year as a law clerk for federal judge Curtis Collier. Saturday morning he crossed the state line and won the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, giving him eight under-three-hour finishes in eight states since he took up the 26.2-mile distance in 2008.
His first-place time Saturday was his best yet -- 2 hours, 39 minutes, 51 seconds.
Kaye Starosciak from Canton, Ga., meanwhile, recorded her first sub-three-hour time, 2:58:17, in repeating her 2010 battlefield triumph. It was the ninth marathon for the 38-year-old teacher, and her three young daughters all did the final leg of the Junior Marathon on Saturday.
"We love this race," said the former Michigan resident, who ran it in 3:11 in 2009 and 3:03:44 last year.
Pearce, 31, ran the new 7 Bridges Half Marathon last month in preparation for his first Georgia marathon. Also before going back to Durham, N.C., next August, he plans to run the Birmingham marathon in February and the one in Nashville in April. He's shooting for sub-threes in all 50 states.
The Duke law school graduate was a miler and half-miler at Yale University but got away from competitive running during time working in Turkey, Egypt and the Sudan.
Saturday he knew the guy to beat was Knoxville's Jason Altman, who won the battlefield race last year in 2:39:44. Altman tried to go even faster this time but exhausted himself in the attempt and had to lie down for a while after finishing second in 2:45:59.
Chattanooga's Jack Findley was third in 2:49:57.
"I was purposefully trying to run smoothly the first half today," Pearce said. "I was trying for a sub-2:40, but at about mile 23 I was in the lead and decided to go for the win, too."
He was not the first marathoner to finish, however. That was wheelchair entrant Tim Phillips, who lives in the Fort Oglethorpe area. He got a three-minute head start on the runners and rolled to a 2:35:42 time in his first full marathon. He did a half at Disney World in 2007 and plans to complete the "Goofy Challenge" there of a half marathon one day and a full marathon the next on his 65th birthday in January 2013.
Philllips was training for a possible Olympics berth as a cyclist when hit by a car 25 years ago in Indiana. That led to him having to compete with another set of big wheels.
"This was great. It was so gorgeous this morning," said Phillips, cheered on by his wife of 43 years, who has overcome cancer three times.
Hugh Enicks and Shannon Barr were the half marathon winners Saturday with times of 1:19:23 and 1:29:27. That was Enicks' second half win in a row after he won the marathon three times, finished second once and took a year off the previous five years.