Runner Profiles by Bob Slowpants

Entries in Black Bag Race Series (8)


John Johnson - Run to Lose Weight or Lose Weight to Run

John is from Theodore, Alabama, south of Mobile.  Any further south and you will be in Mobile Bay!  John followed the south Alabama herd to Auburn University after graduating from Theodore High School in 1981.  His Facebook page acknowledges that he “studied but couldn’t concentrate at Auburn University”.  John refers to the term “freshman 15” to describe the weight many collegian’s gain their first academic year.  John must have accidently enrolled in the agricultural studies program as he gained fifty pounds to a weight of 275 pounds.  He was deemed ready for market.  John dieted and lost forty pounds dining on the left-over prison food served in the university food service facility.

John found it more difficult to eat healthy the first summer quarter on campus.  He elected to run to supplement his diet.  He did not want to run on the track where the “real runners” were, so he elected to run inside the Auburn University Basketball coliseum.  As opposed to the campus streets, John has less risk in the day of pre-GPS watches of getting lost running in circles.  Six laps around was a mile, and he gradually increased to three miles a day without getting bored.  The three miles was a determined length based on a response from a fraternity brother to John’s inquiry about how far he ran.  The response must have made a significant impression on John as three miles has become his preferred distance for now over thirty years and counting.  John laments if the response had been five miles, “he would probably be a much better runner today!”      

John’s weight was down to 195 pound his sophomore year when he left the “lovely plains of Auburn” for the U.S. Air Force.  John was eight years short of being a lifer, only remaining in the Air Force for twelve years.  He continued in the Air Force running three four times a week to control his weight.  Now John “loses weight to run”.  John and the Air Force mutually parted career paths in 1995.  John injured his back in 1994 and was advised by the Air Force quack that examined him “to never run again”.  As an aside John’s duties resulted in travel to unusual locations.  His most memorable run was on a trail around a Norwegian Flystation (Norwegian for air base) while on temporary duty in Norway for a month.

The Air Force restored John’s ability to concentrate as he graduated from Georgia College and State University with a B.A. in Management, a second B.A. in Computer Based Information Systems, and a Master in Management Information Systems.  He must have liked Milledgeville as post-graduate John still resides there.  John pursued a career as a Systems Analyst with the Board of Regents, University System of Georgia, and now is a Senior Applications Systems Analyst at his Alma Mater.  

Despite continuous discomfort from his back-injury, John began to run again in 2004 after a nine-year hiatus and has continued running for fourteen years plus.  His first foray back into racing was the 2004 Macon Labor Day 5K, completed in 34:10.  Since that race, John has logged more than two hundred 5K and 10K races, a few half marathons, and one full marathon. John observes he “loves seeing all the people enjoying themselves and running for those age group awards and t-shirts”.  Because John has such a common name, he began to register as “Wheels Johnson”, an Air Force era nickname.  John lived in Athens in the 2012-2013 period and was active in the Athens Road Runners, Run and See Georgia Grand Prix, Black Bag Race Series, and Clover Glove Race series.   John “has met so many good friends out there” that he “could not imagine stopping now!”      

Bob checking out from the back of the pack. Look for the profile of legal wizard Erica Shepley, and Winder’s favorite Clydesdale Mark Polson.


Marge Finnerty-Redefining the Golden Years of Running

Marge was born in rural Churchville, Iowa in 1933.  The same year that, according to Wickepedia, the Catholic Church in the community was destroyed by fire.  Life got more exciting when the family moved to nearby Ames, Iowa when Marge was in the third grade.  After graduation from Ames High School, Marge met and at age twenty-two married her late husband Bill while both were matriculating at the University of Iowa.  This union produced six children and ten grandchildren.  Not being prejudiced, three were girls and three were boys.  Marge became qualified as a medical technician at the University Hospital while Bill was obtaining degrees in Bio Chemistry and Micro Biology.  Marge worked for two years as an x-ray technician in Iowa after earning her certification.

Bill and Marge moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee where Bill completed post doctorate work in Micro Biology.  Later they relocated to Athens, GA where Bill did what overeducated people in Athens do and worked for the University of Georgia.  Bill and Marge were married for forty years before his untimely demise fifteen years ago.

Marge began running forty five years ago when she accepted a challenge from one of her children to “run around the block”.  Marge never stopped from that point and is still running at age eighty-two.  She can still run an age defying 38 minute 5K and has done so this year at a race I participated in at Watkinsville, GA.  She was running 5K races with a time under thirty minutes until she hit age seventy.  She now only runs three or four races a year in the Athens area and admits she always wins because of her competitive spirit and that competition in her age group is scarce.  Marge’s favorite race is the Human Race in Athens.  She likes the races that support the Special Olympics and any that “help other people”.  Marge has participated in three triathlons, the most recent three years ago at Lake Lanier at age seventy-nine.  Her favorite runner is Athenian Wilson Page, whom we all admire for his spirit and durability.

Marge keeps her mind young by doing volunteer work and “word puzzles” like filling out race registration forms.  She has exercised at the Athens YMCA for over forty years and still does so.  Marge routinely swims three times a week.  Marge will turn eighty-three in January and has a goal next year of running more frequently but not long distances.  The motivation is partially for her health but more to “be the best she can be”.     

Marge does not have or use a computer and declined to have any photos posted.  However, if you become curious and want to know who she is, just listen for her name at the awards ceremony for her name at an Athens area race.

Bob signing out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile on sassy Herman Sasser, and one on Amber Reeves in 2016.


Braden Miller - Hot Dog of a Marine

Braden was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1973 where his father was a full time minister of the gospel for a non-denominational Christian church.  The family relocated to Elberton, GA when Braden was age three.  Braden spent his childhood and early years in Elberton and learned to love Georgia.  The family moved again to Eden, North Carolina when his father accepted another calling from a church.  The family remained in Eden where Braden completed high school at John Motley Morehead High School.

Young Braden and future wife HeatherAfter graduation Braden’s father decided to leave the ministry and open a restaurant in Albany, Georgia with Braden’s grandfather.  Braden waited three years to join his father in Albany and also enlisted in the U.S Marine Corp (USMC) at that time.  He worked in the family restaurant business while serving in the Marine Corp reserves for six years.  Braden married his childhood sweetheart, Heather in 1997, and they opened their own BBQ restaurant in Albany.  Unfortunately, like most of us, Braden was not ready for prime time and the BBQ restaurant “failed miserably”.  The failed restaurant did teach Braden and Heather some valuable lessons.  After two years and two children, the restaurant closed.  The experience resulted in Braden opening two Hot Dog King Restaurants in the Albany area that he has successfully run for thirteen years and counting.   Along with his parents, the family now operates three Hot Dog King and Kregg’s BBQ restaurants in Albany.

The Miller FamilyLike all agile, mobile, hostile military service types, Braden had to run in the service and continued to do so when it was no longer a job necessity.  Braden reemerged as a runner in December 2010 when he and his oldest daughter, Ramsay, participated in the Albany Jingle Jog 5K.  After several more races, they were introduced to the Run and See Georgia series by the South Georgia running ambassador Brenda Gail Wall.  Daughter Ramsay and dad have run in hundreds of races in all three series over the last few years.  They both earned Clover Glove jackets in 2014 and Ramsay took her age group in the Black Bag Race Series while Braden finished 3rd in his competitive age group.  Running in all those 5K races have led to running in 10K races which has led to half marathons and now full marathons, culminating in the upcoming New York City Marathon in November 2015.

Braden and Ramsay in ChicagoBraden credits running with providing quality time spent with his supportive and active running family, wife Heather, children Ramsay age 15, Mattie age 13, and Jax age 10.  Braden has extended his expertise into teaching several running classes at Albany Christian Church and joining the cross country coaching staff at Lee County High School as a community coach.  Braden has learned that “inspiring others to run is so much more important that setting personal records”.  He is so thankful for the way other runners have encouraged, supported, and welcomed him and his family into such a great group of inspiring runners.

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Watch for the profile on the running Reed family (Allyson, Hannah, and Lauren) and on Kennesaw State Owl Daniel Williams.


Donnie Chaffin - A Real Running Hero

Donnie was born and raised in a rural area near Hampton, Georgia and was the oldest of three children. His mother was a bookkeeper while his father kept the peace in the family and as a metro area Atlanta Police Officer for twenty years.  Donnie’s father transitioned to the local community from the city and served as Donnie as a young 4-H'ersheriff of Henry County for twenty-six years until he finally retired from a distinguished career in law enforcement.   Donnie recalls fondly his early years as “almost everyone living near was related somehow” so it was hard to get away with anything.  When he got in trouble, he was subjected to a most cruel punishment, he had to go inside.  Time was spent outdoors playing sports of all types, riding go-karts, and motorcycles, or just exploring the woods.   

Donnie played Little League baseball, which was his only organized sport participation until his days at Henry County High School where he was on the tennis team.   Donnie graduated from high school in 1978 and was accepted at the University of Georgia (UGA).  Upon graduation from UGA with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, he found it difficult to find a job.  He relates that he “pestered the personnel at Delta Airlines” until they found a position for him-he was placed in a computer programming class.  This must have been his calling as Donnie has been a computer programmer for Delta for thirty-two years. 

Donnie started dating his future wife Cheryl when they were both working a summer job at Wendy’s.  This also was the right move for Donnie as well as he and Cheryl have been married for thirty-five years. Cheryl is a middle school math teacher.   They have three children. Jennifer, age twenty-nine, was born with a brain tumor.  Jennifer has had over fifty surgeries and is disabled from multiple strokes.  Being able to work from home, Donnie has been able to care for her and continue his career with Delta.  This is a remarkable tribute to Donnie’s compassion and love for his family.  His oldest son James also works for Delta as a computer programmer.  The youngest son Mark is a frequent participant with Donnie at races.  Donnie has earned the distinction in 2014 of completing all ninety-four Clover Glover series races.  Mark recently graduated from UGA and is seeking full time employment.

Donnie began to run when he took aerobics classes in college but did not run competitively until the late 1980’s.  Donnie became hooked on Run and See Georgia a few years ago when he was one of the first “crazies” who would work it out so he could do two races in one Saturday morning.  In 1994 he ran fifty-four races and finish second overall.  His PRs in those days was 18:31 for a 5K and 40:52 for a 10K.  He has consistently run in the Run and See Georgia, Black Bag Race Series, and Clove Glove series since then but cut back temporarily to pursue another active hobby-martial arts.  Over the years Donnie has progressed up to the Fifth Degree Black Belt designation and recently “retired” as a karate instructor.  He also enjoys gardening, hiking, white water rafting, and scuba diving.  Mark began to run with his father in 2013 and became “hooked” as well.   They have raced every weekend since, with Donnie finishing second overall in the Black Bag Race Series and third overall in Clover Glove series in 2014 competing in 151 races combined. 

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile of the Reed family of runners (Allyson, Hannah, and Lauren), and Braden Miller.


Lauren Freeman - Wanted to be wired but is all wet

Lauren Freeman has always resided in Cleveland, Georgia with the exception of a few years during college.  He grew up playing baseball and basketball but found the most success at White County High School running cross country and track.  After a 17:52 PR in a 5K distance and running 6-8 training miles a day, Lauren developed shin splits and a stress fracture his junior year.  The injuries affected his finish times when he returned for his senior year track competition.  

Young Lauren competing in Cross CountryLauren matriculated at nearby Gainesville College graduating with an Associate Degree in both engineering and business.  He transferred to Southern Polytechnic State University seeking a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering.  Scheduling problems limited the classes Lauren could take to be considered a full time student and maintain his insurance coverage.  Returning closer to his roots, Lauren moved to Dahlonega enrolling at North Georgia College as a full time student.  Lauren commuted to Marietta to continue taking engineering courses at Southern Poly while taking a full load at North Georgia.  This allowed Lauren to eventually qualify as a full time student at Southern Poly.  Not willing to forfeit his credits at North Georgia College when he moved to Marietta, he continued to take night courses at the Gainesville’s North Georgia College campus 2 to 3 times a week.  Persistence resulted in two degrees-an Electrical Engineering degree from Southern Poly in 2005 and a business administration degree from North Georgia in 2006. Lauren was now uniquely qualified with two degrees plus the experience to drive across North Georgia to Run and See Georgia, Black Bag, and Clover Glove Series races.   

Multitalented Lauren worked for his father’s business, Freeman Electrical and Pump Service, during high school and college.  While in college Lauren qualified for an unrestricted electrical contractor license.  After graduation Lauren began work full time for his father as an electrician while seeking an engineering position.  Lauren wanted to be a hands on field engineer rather than sitting at a desk doing designs and CAD work.  Lauren was on the verge of accepting a position with a large electrical firm in Atlanta as an engineer when family loyalty surfaced when his father asked him to manage his other business, American Water Services.  Lauren preferred the pace of life and lack of commuter traffic that Cleveland had to offer as opposed to Atlanta so the choice was easy to rationalize.

American Water Services owned and operated community water systems in North Georgia.  Lauren wanted to improve his resume so he studied to achieve certification as a class three water system operator.  Lauren expanded the firm, developing its own water lab and now does water filtration. With additional courses completed by now, professional student Lauren obtained licenses as a Certified Lab Analyst and as a Certified water Filtration Specialist.  In his spare time Lauren still does a few electrical jobs to maintain proficiency in that field.

Lauren with the 2013 BBRS champ Jim LatimerIn 2010 Lauren found that he was gaining weight and not having the energy that he used to have while commuting to complete his dual degrees.   Being a high mileage type of guy, he started running in a few local races and found in 2011 on the Georgia Runner website that he was in the top twenty-five in the 25-29 age group.  He ran a few more races that year finishing fifth in his age group.  After overhearing Bo Ryles (not hard to do as loud as Bo is!) discuss the Black Bag Races Series with another runner, he begin to seek races that were in the Black Bag Race Series.  Lauren completed 2013 winning overall top point achiever in the Black Bag Race Series plus his age group in Clover Glove.  As the overall winner in the BBRS, Lauren won a BBRS dri fit shirt, BBRS Hat, BBRS Bag, a pair of shoes from Fleet Feet Athens,  a pair of Red Star Sunglasses  and the grand prize of running in as many Black Bag Race Series races as he wants for FREE along with the coveted Will Chamberlin Memorial Cup!  His best PR in a 5K since high school was 19:20 in the Lawrenceville Flashlight 5K and 43:27 in the 10K Kennesaw Summer Steamer.  His favorite race is Cleveland’s Crow’s Calling 5K which is a short commute.  Lauren remarked that what he enjoys the most about the multiple race series is that “we can be extremely competitive with each other and still be friends at the end of the day”.  Goals for 2014 include running his first marathon and getting his 5K time under 19:00!                        

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile on Jocelyn Davis and the retired but not yet exhausted UGA professor Bill Davis.