Runner Profiles by Bob Slowpants


Melinda Black - Educated To Run

Melinda was born and raised in Toccoa, GA.  She graduated from Stephens County High School.  Melinda excelled playing the clarinet in the high school band and for three years was selected for the All State Band as well as attending the Governor’s Honor’s program.  She was selected as the student conductor for the marching band her senior year.  Melinda subsequently attended and graduated from the University of Georgia (UGA).  She earned a position in the Redcoat Band but became unable to participate because she had to work on weekends while at UGA.   Melinda majored in education and is currently an Early Intervention Program Teacher at Hazel Grove Elementary in Mt. Airy, GA.  

Melinda began running at age six.  Every day she would do her best to run away from school.  The custodian of the elementary school she attended, Mr. Sullens, was assigned the job of catching her.  He had long legs and could run fast for his age group.  One day she made it out the door, through the parking lot, and to the highway before Mr. Sullens caught her about fifty yards down the road. 

Melinda’s parents divorced when she was five years old.  Her father didn’t want to raise her and her mother could not do so.  She ended up being uniquely qualified for her vocation by being raised by grandparents as well as aunts and uncles.  Melinda has always felt that she had a hole in her heart because she didn’t have the love of her parents.  Sometimes she just runs through the pain because she wishes she had parents who loved her.  As the years go by the hole in her heart has grown smaller as it is being filled with the love of others in her life.

Melinda has been married to husband Mark for the best twenty-eight years of her life.  Mark is supportive of Melinda as her running coach and drives her to races.  When she is at the two mile point in a 5K, she knows she is headed back to Mark and that he is always waiting for her at the finish line.  They have two sons, Kelsey and Hayden.  Kelsey is twenty-five years old, a Georgia Tech graduate like his father, and a civil engineer.  His wife Emilee is a school teacher like Melinda.  Hayden is age twenty-two and will be attending Pharmacy School at UGA this fall.  As they say in Georgia the parents and children are a “house divided” with the inhabitants having both Tech and UGA pedigrees.

Melinda’s post elementary school running began in 1990 when she participated in a few 5K races.  Her best 5K time was 19:29 in the 1997 Lake Hartwell Dam race.  She stopped running for years due to health reasons, but continued to walk, jog, and hike regularly.  Two years ago the running lure bit again and has endured to this date.  Melinda discovered series running and the point system in February 2013.  She placed second in the Black Bag race series with 497 point.   Her 2014 goal was to achieve a finish time in under twenty-four minutes in a 5K race.  She achieved the goal on May 2nd with a 23:53 time at the Night of Neon 5K in Commerce.  Her favorite race is the D-Day Currahee 10K as one can tell by the lead photo of Melinda at the turn around atop Currahee Mountain.  The site is three miles from where she grew up.  It is also near the same road where she started her running career at age six!  Melinda especially enjoys trail runs and running in the woods.  Melinda humbly states that she has met “some very kind and amazing people” on the series circuits and is “looking forward to getting to know them even better”.

Bob, checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile on mountain man Clarkesville’s Jerry Cunningham and on Athens’ Caitlin Cohn. 


Randy Ballew - High Mileage but Doesn't Need an Overall

Randy Ballew was born and raised in Athens and never found his way out of Clarke County except to hike and race.  He graduated from Athens High where he was on the cross country and track teams.  Randy and his brother trained by running the five mile distance between school and their home.  After graduation, the gears in Randy begin to turn as he found employment at local business Tiger Auto Parts where he remained for ten years.

Randy Dirt BikingRandy’s spare time begin to be filled with racing his Yamaha dirt bike.  His fondness for the sport led to an opportunity to join Cycle World in Athens where he worked for three years.  His ardor for the sport declined as the spills increased and Randy found the ground harder when hit as he matured.  Ten years later his mechanical aptitude was rewarded with the opportunity to join Heyward Allen Nissan/Toyota, one of the oldest and leading new car dealership in the Athens area.  Randy remained as an automotive technician at the dealership for eighteen years.  He was lured away by Phil Hughes Honda in Athens where he has worked for the past twelve years.  These stints total thirty years in the automotive service market in Athens and he is still counting as Randy is still employed full time including working every other Saturday.  Randy services Hondas from 1975 to the latest models.  His skill is evident in that he can service the older models whereas the newer technicians are limited in experience to computer analysis of new vehicles. 

Randy, Sherri, Kelsie and KaylaRandy’s long marriage to Sherri has produced a running family with two daughters.  Kayla, age twenty two, is an IT student at Athens Tech and twelve year old middle school student Kelsie.  All four can be found running in the same race every other weekend when Randy is free to run.  All four are highly ranked in Black Bag Race Series and Run & See Georgia standings.  Randy lived near the late Will Chamberlin and often wondered where Will was every weekend.  He found out when Kayla discovered Classic Race Services.  The family had been hiking on weekends until they got lost one time near Toccoa Falls.  Randy began to race as it was difficult to get lost even if you are close to being the leader.  His first competitive race was the 2012 Winder Summer’s End 5K.  Since then he has run with the family in multiple races every other weekend.

Randy Running HardRandy advised that he “runs as hard as he can” every race because he can participate only every other weekend.  He is a remarkable 22:19 5K finisher in the competitive men’s age 60-64 group.  He only runs 5K races; with his best time being 21:40.  Randy ran the Hot Chocolate 5K in Atlanta in January finishing 198th out of 11,624 participants. His favorite Black Bag Race Series races are the Watkinsville Scarecrow 5K and the Madison Christmas Rush 5K.  Recently slowed by an elbow infection and later an infected dog bite (the bite was not from anyone else on the course), he is returning to form.  Randy can often be found waiting in front of the finish chute to greet Sherri and his daughters as they finish. 

 Bob checking out from the back of the pack. Look for the profile on Melinda Black and on Clarkesville bearded wonder Jerry Cunningham.


Barbara Nasworthy - Pride of Pine Mountain

Barbara landed in Pine Mountain, GA, having spent the first eleven years of her life in Des Moines, Iowa, then sixteen years in Springfield, Illinois and twenty-three years in Scottsdale, Arizona.  She is an avid horse person who loves to be outdoors horseback riding, hiking, biking, swimming, and all things active.

Arizona provided the most memorable times of her life.  Barbara graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Human Resource Management.  Graduate experience in the insurance industry contributed to Barbara assisting with a startup company, Excess and Surplus Lines a subsidiary of a larger insurer (like Lloyds’ of London), in Scottsdale.  The firm grew from two employees to over one thousand and earning one billion dollars in annual premium income.  Barbara served as Vice President of Human Resources for the new firm.  Like the Apache Indian Chief, Cochise surrendered in Arizona as Barbara did to Jim, a LaGrange, Georgia native.  Jim was affiliated with Milliken & Company and considered Arizona a whistle stop which would eventually lead him back to a corporate role with the firm in Georgia.  Their union produced two sons that joined Barbara’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Jim eventually started his own commercial floor covering firm and after fourteen years at the Scottsdale insurance company, Barbara joined him as office manager to take advantage of a slower pace of life which gave her more time to enjoy her children.  This lifestyle allowed the opportunity to take the children hiking, including two treks down and up the Grand Canyon, and to enjoy snow skiing at their cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.

In 2000 while visiting Georgia, they found a gorgeous home and property in Pine Mountain.  After relocating, her sons matriculated at Harris County High and then the University of Georgia (Jim’s Alma Mater).  Jay, age 28, has a master’s degree and is working in Atlanta for a startup tech firm.  Jeff, age 27, is a third-year Mercer medical student.  Barbara’s daughter and grandson continue to reside in Arizona.  Barbara and Jim have an array of animals on their forty-five acre farm in Pine Mountain.  Since relocating to Pine Mountain, Barbara has worked for AFLAC in Columbus, Colonial Bank in Montgomery, Alabama and presently Synovus Financial in Columbus as Compensation Manager and as a Consultant.

Lacing up her running shoes later in life, Barbara’s first race was the 2009 Warm Springs Candle Light Tour 5K where she hoped to just finish but was surprised to be first in her age group.  In her next race at Callaway Garden, she once again was first in her age group.  She then discovered that fellow runners were not only running back-to-back races, but accumulating points in the Run and See Georgia series, Black Bag series, and Clover Glove series.  As Barbara describes it, “It gets in your blood and the runners are all so nice and supportive.”

Barbara has worked up to the half-marathon distance and participated in three in January 2014.  Returning to work at Synovus and responsibilities on the farm limited Barbara to a goal of 1,000 jacket points in 2013. Although not getting any faster (PR: 5K-27:06 and 10K-56:50), she hopes to continue running for many years to come to the anguish of those in her age group where she finished fifth in the Run and See Georgia and fourth in her age group for the Black Bag race series.

Bob checking out from the back of the pack. Watch for the profile on Watkinsville area youthful runner Randy Ballew and later on Melinda Black.


Remembering Ron Landen

Below is the runner profile originally printed in 2010 on our dear friend Ron Landen.  Ron was diagnosed with a very agressive cancer in December of 2013.  On March 22nd 2014, Ron competed in three 5K races.  On April 13th 2014, our running family gathered together to celebrate the life of Ron but sadly he was unable to attend.  On May 4th 2014 some might say Ron lost his battle with cancer but we would like to think that he crossed the finish line winning this human race by leaving behind so many wonderful memories and experiences.  We repost this article and encourage you to leave comments and memories of Ron.  Our hearts are heavy with grief but we know that his pain and earthly stuggles are over.  We love you Ron and will miss you.

"Where's Ron"

Roger Keel and Ron LandenThis is Roger Keel’s comment as he completes a race and is ready to depart back to the Valley, Alabama- Columbus, Georgia area.  Ron and Roger have become carpool buddies since the 2009 Sweet Tomatoes races.  Roger drives and Ron navigates between naps.  Ron, in his own words, considers himself to be the luckiest man in the world.  Ron has survived several cancer surgeries plus heart attacks and has a list of ailments to long for this commentary.  

Ron has been graced with two sons and five grandchildren.  Wesley lives in Vancouver, Canada where Ron has two grandchildren courtesy of Wesley.  Robert resides in Panama City, Florida where Ron has three grandchildren thanks to Robert.   Ron’s parents still reside in Virginia where Ron spent his early years.  Ron was raised in Norfolk, Virginia graduating from Maury High School in 1962.  Ron joined the Air Force after graduation with an initial tour of duty that ended in 1969.  Ron next attended and graduated from Gulf Coast Junior College in Panama City, Florida.  Ron later completed a BS degree inTeacher Ron history at Auburn University.  Both Ron’s sons are Auburn graduates.  Ron acquired a second BS degree from Florida A& M University and a Master’s Degree in Horticulture from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallassee, Florida.  Ron taught horticulture for ten years in the Bay County Florida school system.  Ron was selected as Vocational Teacher of the Year in 1982 for Bay County.  Ron remained active in the Air Force Reserve since 1969 and in 1990 returned to active duty for the Gulf War.  Ron remained on active duty in special operations in the Air Force and retried with the rank of Lt. Col. with thirty five years service for our country.     

Ron and JackieRon and Jackie Phillips have been companions for thirteen years.  Jackie and Ron began attending Run and See Georgia races in 1989 with Ron placing twelfth in his age group.  They mutually decided in 2005 to win their respective age groups in the Run and See Georgia series, which they did thanks to Jackie’s planning and Ron’s driving.  Ron would drive up from Florida each weekend to accompany Jackie to races.  Both have been fixtures in the Run and See Georgia circuit for years.  When Ron retired, he relocated to Columbus, Georgia and lives across the street from Jackie.  Ron recalls ten years ago he was still recording finish times in the low twenty minutes for a 5K.  Ron was second in the 60-64 men’s age group standings with 3,053 points in 2009, and is dominating the age 65-69 age group in 2010. Ron has competed races in thirty-three states.  His best marathon time was 3:40 in Jacksonville, but his favorite marathon was Kiawah Island which he completed one year to the day after his first heart attack.  His best half marathon was at Seaside in Florida with a time of 1:37.  Ron’s best 10K time was 40:05 and best 5K time was 18:58 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.    

In addition to Jackie, Ron loves gardening.  Ron has cultivated twenty-twoKeep Running Ron! rose bushes in his garden in Columbus.  He has twelve amaryllis plants that his grandfather gave to his father and that Ron is continuing to cultivate.  Beyond his horticulture goals Ron is aiming for Senior Grandmaster Runner of the Year recognition in the Run and See Georgia series in 2010.  Ron will achieve this goal if Roger Keel remembers to wake him up for races when they arrive at the start from having left South Georgia departing at times as early as 3 a.m.  David Watkins is in Ron’s support group as David has assisted Ron to avoid getting lost even on a straight course.  

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.


Bill Davis - In Tune Dawg

Bill describes his childhood physique as “cubbish” and was “sort of OK” in sports growing up in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  He excelled in sports that did not involve endurance, like ping pong and badminton.  Music was in the family genes as Bill’s father was the band director at Northwestern State College (now Northwestern State University of Louisiana).  Bill graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Music and Masters in Music degrees.   While a Jay Hawk, he met his bride of over forty years, Jolene.  Bill completed graduate school at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York earning a Doctors of Music Arts degree.

Bill on left with his brother BobLike many of us in the Vietnam era, the Army decided that Bill should be in tune with the service.  Bill was unable to draw combat pay while stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco.  As a member of the Adjutant General Branch (human resources for you non military types), Bill was selected as the Sixth Army Staff Band Officer.  As Bill described it, he “did a job for the Army that he was qualified to do”.  He traveled in the then Sixth Army area (the northwestern United States) inspecting National Guard and Army Reserve Military Bands.  His new bride also enjoyed being stationed near the ocean, the Sierras, wine country and a multitude of cultural attractions.  The units he inspected were located in prime vacation areas such as Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Los Angles, Reno and Salt Lake City to name a few.      

Jessica, Katie, Jolene and BillLife after military service found Bill as a full time bassoonist/contrabassoonist with the San Antonio Orchestra.  Bill next became a faculty member of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas (better known as WTAMU or What am you!).   In 1981 Bill accepted a position at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia, relocating his family to Athens.  At UGA he taught bassoon, composition and theory, later becoming involved in the school of music administration. 

Bill retried from UGA a couple of years ago.  Since they are empty nesters Bill and Jolene have been doing a lot of traveling with their trusty pop up trailer camper that they purchased in 2008. Their daughters Jessica and Katie were born in 1984 and 1986 respectively.  Jessica now lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where she is Executive Director of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra.  Katie works for the Democratic Party of Kansas and resides in Wichita. Bill and Jolene’s favorite trips are those that involve camping and Bill running one or more races.  Their next trip will be in April when Bill turns sixty-five.  They will be heading  to St. Louis, Missouri where Bill will run the St. Louis Marathon.     

Bill started running in 2003 at age 54 after trying to starve off unwanted pounds.  Bill found that races and participating in running series are “milestones” for the greater goal of keeping fit” and the people who run in them are “pretty amazing!” Without naming a favorite race, Bill likes any race at Sandy Creek Park (with or without the “dam hill”).  Bill has completed fourteen marathons with the first being Tybee.  His philosophy is to run the first twenty miles slowly, then run walk the next 5K portion, and finally “walk, shuffle, limp, or crawl the final leg”.  

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile of Barbara Nasworthy and the profile of youthful senior runner Randy Ballew.