It’s hard to know at the end of this week whether I should continue recounting last weekend or move the focus to the upcoming weekend. I’ll go with last weekend, but I must mention that this weekend is likely the biggest of the Dogwood Arts Festival, with the Arts and Crafts Festival on Market Square and throughout Krutch Park. The artisan works are phenomenal and the food tent, in which chefs prepare dishes with wine pairings, is one of my favorite single events of the year.
Still, I must give a nod to last weekend’s Knoxville Marathon which drew several thousand people. The race has grown to include a 5K, Half-Marathon, Marathon and Marathon Relay. Urban Son-in-Law backed off to the half-marathon this year and many Urban Friends ran various other races. I think one reason for the massive crowds last weekend was the marathon, as a number of people came in from out of town or simply stayed downtown to enjoy the other events going on.
I love the fact that a fitness-based event has become so big in the city. It also works beautifully to have so many great activities downtown to greet any out-of-town visitors. There is no way someone visited the city last weekend, encountered the beautiful weather, pianos on the square, Chalk Walk, First Friday, Rhythm and Blooms and came away with anything other than a very positive impression of what is happening here. They also spent time and money in the Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday.
The starting line and staging area always attract me. Nerves jangle about at every turn, runners giddy with excitement warm up maybe a bit too much. Proud families wish their loved ones well. The mayor spoke at this year’s opening and the national anthem makes any sporting fan’s blood reach a quick boil of anticipation. Some are there to win, others to have fun and others simply to finish. Music pounds from a PA system as it will throughout the race as live bands play for the runners.
I photographed eventual winner Wojciech Kopec (2:22:15) as he left the start line (red jersey above, number 2), but missed him at the twenty-five mile mark. I did catch Edward Tabut passing the UT Conference Center, heading into the final stretch. He was about three minutes behind first place. He also nearly left the course by not turning onto Locust, but a policeman yelled, pointed and Edward corrected his course.
About four minutes behind him was Bryan Moresman in third and I really felt for the next two guys as I photographed them leaving Market Square. They ran within steps of each other around the twenty-four mile mark and clearly, they would battle to the finish line. In the end, while Stewart Ellington (No. 6) lead by a few yards at that point, Abraham Kogo (No. 3) would pass him in the end to win fourth place. Two seconds separated them at the finish line. You can find complete results here.
Others would pass through downtown on into the afternoon. In fact, Urban Son-in-Law spotted a couple going through around 4:00, well after the official times have stopped. It reminds me of Cake’s awesome song, “The Distance.” All that matters at that point is finishing. And whether anyone else knows or acknowledges the fact, you know. It has to feel good. I never made it to the complete marathon and I admire those who do.