John Kelly, 33, of Rockville, Md., crosses the finish line as the winner of the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler trail race Saturday. The race was this year's Road Runners Club of America 2017 National Ultra Championship.

Lookout Mountain was the hub of the trail running world Saturday.

The Road Runners Club of America 2017 National Ultra Championship started and ended on top of the mountain near Covenant College with the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, while the Wauhatchie Trail Run at Reflection Riding and Arboretum & Nature Center was the RRCA cross country state championship.

"That's a very big distinction to be selected as the national championship," RRCA state representative Sherilyn Johnson said. " They were selected because they put on good, quality races, and they have a good history."

John Kelly, 33, of Rockville, Md., stumbled across the line exhausted and a little bloody after 7 hours, 27 minutes and 44 seconds to win the 50-mile national championship race.

Kelly passed local runner Bob Adams about halfway through the race and remained in the lead until the finish.

Top 3 Lookout Mountain 50 Milers


1. John Kelly

2. Luke Paulson

3. Bob Adams


1. Aden St. Charles

2. Nikki Kimball

3. Amy Macintire

"It's a great course," Kelly said. "It has beautiful views, and it's a tough course. There's a lot of elevation chage. There was a lot of technical, singletrack trail, which I enjoy."

Kelly is familiar with racing in Chattanooga. He grew up near Knoxville and ran the race two years ago. He also competed in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships earlier this year.

For Kelly, who is primarily a triathlete, it was his first national championship win. However, it didn't come without adversity.

The race was closer to 45 miles in previous years, and this year's run brought a slightly different route that was the full 50 miles. Kelly's watch also wasn't working properly, so about 48 miles into the race he thought he was supposed to be finished. The last miles were grueling for him.

"I thought I was going be finished," Kelly said. "I ran out of water and everything with about three or four miles left. It was pretty ugly coming in from there."

Kelly, who has also completed the Barkley Marathon, finished about 17 minutes ahead of Luke Paulson of Carrboro, N.C., who was racing his first ultra run. Adams, of Ooltewah, finished third, 13 seconds behind Paulson.

Adams was last year's 50-mile winner. However, the familiarity with the course wasn't necessarily an advantage, he said.

"I guess it gave me a little bit of an edge because I knew where I was, but I also knew what I was about to get into. The unknown sometimes can be better," he said.

In the women's race, Signal Mountain runner Aden St. Charles won, beating trail racing legend Nikki Kimball by more than 22 minutes.

In the 33rd annual Wauhatchie Trail Run, local runner Rodney Stoker, 41, passed 10-time winner Tim Ensign in the final 50 to 60 yards to win the race for the second time.

The 6.7-mile event featured a staggered start, with an age and gender handicap. The race is set up so females 85 and older start an hour ahead of the 25-29-year-old men who start last. Other age groups are staggered between.

Stoker was a standout runner at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before going on to coach at Bryan College and Tennessee. He moved back to Chattanooga to run camps at McCallie School, race director Jim Steffes said.

The Wauhatchie Trail Run is presented by the Chattanooga Track Club. The Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, 20 Miler and 10-kilometer are put on by Wild Trails.

Contact Mark Pace at or 423-757-6361. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @Chattanooga Outdoors.