Full marathon winner Bob Adams crosses the finish line during the first running of the Chattanooga Marathon on Sunday, Mar. 6, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Debut Chattanooga Marathon runs smoothly

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Bob Adams crossed the finish line calmly, as if returning from a jog around the block.

The 35-year-old Ooltewah resident did have one thing on his mind, though, as fans cheered and rang cowbells around him at the finish line of Sunday morning's inaugural Erlanger Chattanooga Marathon.

"I just need some ice," Adams said.

He later explained that he tweaked his foot seven miles into the race. The injury did little to slow him down over the next 19.2 miles.

In his first road marathon since the 2014 Boston Marathon, Adams ran a 5:57-mile pace, finishing the 26.2 mile course in 2:35:38. That gave him top honors in the debut event that attracted close to 3,000 runners across the marathon, half marathon, marathon relay and 5K events.

"I was kind of limping a little bit more and more as I was going along," Adams said. "But the crowd support was great to help keep me going on."

The race came directly to spectators in some cases, starting downtown on Broad Street before touching the North Shore, St. Elmo, Fort Wood and other residential areas.

"A lot of people have heard of Southside and downtown and North Shore, but not everybody has heard of Fort Wood," Russell Golden said, standing outside of his Fort Wood home at 8:30 a.m.

Golden's children, ages 6 and 8, drew messages of encouragement on the street with chalk while waiting for their mother to pass through in the half marathon.

"This area is kind of off the beaten path, even though it's in the center of town," he said. "We're glad to have them coming through."

Top finishers from the day agreed that spectator support helped make their sunny but strenuous mornings successful.

"Every mile or so there was a huge crowd of people cheering you on," women's marathon champion Kate Kokal said, minutes after breaking through the tape. "I was afraid there would be no crowd at all. It was really motivating to have that along the way."

Kokal came from Pennsylvania, one of 40 states represented this weekend. The 27-year-old Pittsburgh resident and former college runner said she'd "absolutely" return to run the Chattanooga Marathon again.

"This wasn't my best time, but I had the most fun and enjoyed it," Kokal said. "I could see it being a big race. It was definitely well put together."

Local leaders want the event to grow to 10,000-plus competitors and embody the city's ability to host large-scale endurance sports.

Sunday seemed like a sterling start, with no reports surfacing of traffic or safety miscues and a large contingent cheering at the finish line, where a race expo with food and live music provided a vibrant atmosphere.

Just before the race began at 8 a.m., Mayor Andy Berke stood on the deck of the High Point Climbing gym on Broad Street and thanked competitors for participating. Among the runners was Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher, who finished the half marathon in 1:42:47.

"It was a wonderful course, the best of Chattanooga," Fletcher said. "It was a beautiful day, a great race."

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's cross-country program had a good day, too.

Leah Thomas, 1999 UTC graduate now in Atlanta, won the women's half marathon with a time of 1:24:24, finishing 34 seconds ahead of her college teammate, Amanda Tate of Signal Mountain.

A few minutes before Thomas and Tate finished, Paul Stuart, a UTC senior from Nashville, broke the men's tape with a time of 1:09:18.

His former teammates, recent UTC graduates John Gilpin and Lucas Cotter, rounded out the podium in the half marathon.

"It was special," said Cotter, who is from Signal Mountain. "That's why I wanted to run it, because it was the inaugural Chattanooga Marathon.

"Anytime you can compete in the inaugural anything, it's a big deal."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at or 423-757-6249.