Familiar Faces Win St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There are certain guarantees in Nashville. Fantastic country music, sumptuous barbecue and Scott Wietecha winning the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon.

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A 34-year-old elementary school P.E. teacher from Hendersonville, Tenn., Wietecha won the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon for the fourth year in a row today, in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 42 seconds.

Brian Shelton of Cookville, Tenn., finished second in 2:34:43.

In the 201st race of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Wietecha became the first person to win one of the events four times. Meb Keflezighi has won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon three times.

Melanie Kulesz of Oak Ridge Tenn., won the women’s marathon in 2:59:12. Megan Hovis of Charlotte, N.C., took second in 3:04:52.

Roosevelt Cook of Hesperia, Calif., captured the men’s half marathon in 1:11:15. Julie Stackhouse of Jacksonville, Fla., won the women’s half in 1:22:17.

As if Wietecha didn’t have enough motivation trying to win the race for the fourth year in a row, Shelton gave him extra incentive. The two runners are friends and Wietecha didn’t find out Shelton was running the race until Friday night.

“He told me he was going all out, 100 percent,” said Wietecha. “Me? My preparation was like 85 percent. He was trying to be this sneaky little hobbit, stealing the dragon’s gold. All he did was wake up the dragon.”

At about 16.3 miles, Wietecha came out of First Tennessee Park, the minor league Nashville Sounds’ ballpark, as Shelton entered the ballpark.

“I knew I had about a two-minute lead,” said Wietecha.

He spent much of the remainder of the race looking over his shoulder, trying to spot Shelton, who was nowhere in sight.

“I didn’t want the guy coming in my back yard, stealing my thunder,” said Wietecha. “I didn’t want to lose in front of my (students). You’ve got to protect your home turf.”

Wietecha earned $500 for the victory, plus a $250 bonus for running under 2:26. His fastest time at Nashville is 2:22:41. His marathon PR is 2:17:02.

Kulesz, 24, was also a repeat winner. The former UNC-Ashville runner lopped more than five minutes off of last year’s winning time of 3:04:28. Her goal was to break her 2:58 marathon PR but after starting out fast enough she fell short.

“I don’t know what happened,” said Kulesz, who laughed, then added, “Actually, I know what happened. It got hilly.”

Cook, 36, flew in from California and won the half marathon for the second straight year. Afterwards, he watched age groupers finishing more than an hour after him, admiring their effort.

“We all celebrate the sport we love,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. We’re all suffering. It’s all relative.”

The morning began with the runners getting drenched by a morning rain. The start was delayed by about 30 minutes because of the weather.

Of the lure to run on a damp morning, Nashville’s Latissa Hall, said “It’s the atmosphere, the excitement. Everyone being here. All the bands, the support.”

“And,” said her friend, 57-year-old Renee Buford, “to support St. Jude.”

Formerly known as the St. Jude Country Music Marathon, the event has been rebranded as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series for the first time in 2016 as the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. The musically themed road race attracted more than 30,000 entrants who took on the 26.2, 13.1-mile and 5K courses, while passing many of Nashville’s best live bands performing along the route. Nearly 300 runners took the Music City Challenge by running the 5K plus the full marathon or the half marathon. In addition, 3,500 junior racers will participate in KiDS ROCK Nashville presented by YMCA of Middle Tennessee.

During the marathon, thousands of St. Jude Heroes run for a reason, and this year, they hit their goal of $2 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Over the event’s 6-yearpartnership, nearly $8 million has been raised for St. Jude

On Saturday evening, the race continues the strong tradition of great music combined with the premier running event in Tennessee as The Wallflowers take the stage for the Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert Series at the Bridgestone Arena featuring Marc Scibilia as their special guest.