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Thompson, new to city, wins Chattanooga Marathon

Christian Thompson said he decided to enter the Chattanooga Marathon because he was tired of running alone as he trains for the upcoming Boston Marathon.

Thompson, 28, got the pre-Boston workout he was looking for Sunday, but he sure didn't find many companions on the race course.

The newly minted Chattanooga resident won the second Chattanooga Marathon more than 15 minutes ahead of his closest challenger, with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 31 seconds on the 26.2-mile course.

"Well, it's still different when you're running in a race," he said. "There's people cheering you on, versus just getting up early and running by yourself. It makes it a lot easier."

Thompson moved to the city in June because his wife is completing an optometry residency here. He represented Fleet Feet Chattanooga — the North Shore running equipment store where he is working — during Sunday's competition, which included a half-marathon.

The two races combined to attract roughly 2,000 participants, while several hundred more completed Saturday's 5k and kids run.

"It's nice to have something that can attract this many people, and I think it's only going to keep growing and growing," said Thompson, who is originally from central New York. "If more people do it, they're going to get other people to do it and it's going to grow to be a pretty big race. I think it's great for the city to have something like this, especially when you have Ironman, too. Chattanooga is starting to become a bigger endurance sports destination."

A brisk but sunny morning turned into a beautiful day for the second year in a row. Runners started downtown on Broad Street, in the shadow of the Tennessee Aquarium, and wove through the city's fabric during the morning and into midday.

Spectators in neighborhoods like Fort Wood, Ferger Place and Jefferson Heights rang cowbells and yelled encouragement to runners. The full marathon also incorporated a new section of the Tennessee Riverwalk that runs from the South Broad district to Ross's Landing. Both races finished on Reggie White Boulevard between Finley Stadium and the First Tennessee Pavillion.

The Riverwalk impressed the second overall finisher, Allen Baddour of North Carolina.

"I had never been to Chattanooga," said Baddour, who clocked a personal-best 2:45:25. "It's a beautiful city. This is a good reason to come and visit, and I'll probably bring my family back this summer."

The top two women's finishers came from out of state, too. Colorado's Kimberly Bradley is seeking to complete a marathon in all 50 states. Tennessee was her 25th state, and her time of 3:30:36 good enough for her third event championship.

Lucy Johnston, of Georgia, crossed two minutes behind her.

"We were going back and forth," Bradley explained as the two embraced each other just past the finish line.

Added Johnston: "We got to talking and realized we had a lot in common. That's what this is all about."

Sexton pushes through

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A local man fighting stage four brain cancer, Nathan Sexton, pushed through a late-race seizure to finish 13th in the marathon with a time of 3:07:09.

Sexton began his distance running career at the 2016 Chattanooga half-marathon and returned to run the full this year, hoping to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon with a time of 3:05:00 or faster.

His running partner, Alan Outlaw, said the seizure came in the final five miles and required Sexton to slow down and take medication. Sexton never stopped running, Outlaw said, but the ordeal prevented him from regaining the sub-seven minute mile-pace that he had run for the previous 20-plus miles.

Sexton's time was good for second out of the 27 runners in his age group.

Best of the half

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cross country runner Kevin Huwe won the half marathon with a time of 1:14:51. WRCB-TV reporter Kelly McCarthy broke the women's half marathon tape with a time of 1:30:47.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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