The 5k for FCA race every Labor Day weekend always includes a lot of young runners, but an old reliable set the standard Saturday morning at Chattanooga State and the neighboring portion of the Tennessee Riverpark.
Dean Thompson in his "Run for God" attire loves to race for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and for nearly a decade he's finished annually in the top three of its local 5-kilometer fundraiser. He's won it before, too, and he won it again Saturday at age 51 in 17 minutes, 21 seconds.
Home-schooled high school senior Jonathan Boyd was second in 17:52, just ahead of 15-year-old Chase Faudi in 17:54 and Ryan McGinnis, 35, in 17:55. Clustered fifth through seventh were Michael J. Wilson in 18:05, Matthew Adams in 18:07 and Ryan Shrum in 18:08.
"He kind of got out ahead from the beginning," Boyd said of Thompson. "I knew he was going to run away.
"I was just trying to run a tempo race today — run a nice hard pace but not overdo it. We kind of ran in a pack of four or five, and at the end I kind of kicked it in and got second."
Rachel Mason, 32, was the women's winner and 17th overall in 19:17 in her first 5k since the 65 Roses race in Cleveland in early April. Later that month she won the Chickamauga Chase 15k.
She has put her career as an exercise physiologist on hold to stay home with her two young daughters, but she has been helping Chad Varga and Sarah Powe with the St. Jude middle school runners, some of whom ran Saturday. One of those, 11-year-old Mae Mae Powe, was the second female in 20:13, just ahead of Lesley Green, 16, in 10:18. They were 31st and 32nd overall.
Varga is the 5k for FCA race director and the owner of longtime race sponsor Front Runner Athletics, and he and Thompson have been friends and running buddies for years.
"Rachel has been kind of a godsend for our St. Jude team, and Dean has always been a friend of Front Runner and Run for God," Varga said. "It's been a great relationship."
Said Thompson: "I think this is 12 years I've been running this race, and eight or nine in a row I've been in the top three. I love this race and I love Chad and Front Runner — they've got such good hearts — and the cause is the right one. I've got a soft spot for FCA."
He finished second last year by seven seconds to Murray County High School runner Jessie Martinez, who finished in 16:57. Thompson saw a time Martinez ran last week in Rome and said, "He's really improved in the last year. If he had been here today, I wouldn't have been able to see him when he finished."
As it was, Thompson was satisfied with his comfortable win.
"It was OK. I was hoping for maybe 10 seconds faster," he said, "but it was a good day and I'm pleased with where I am physically."
Mason had a similar assessment.
"I just wanted to see what I could do. I hadn't run a 5k in a while," she said. "I was wanting to break 19 (minutes), but I guess that will take a couple more training runs."
This was the second year for the race to be held on the Saturday before Labor Day instead of the holiday Monday, and Varga said "the jury is still out" on whether that will become permanent.
"It was a good turnout and we've had a really good response to doing this," he said. "I think it really worked out this year with the football schedule for the weekend."
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.