By Alison Kanaby, D.O
One of the biggest things to hit the running scene in Nashville is the St. Jude Rock n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & Half Marathon (RNR Nashville), previously known as the Country Music Marathon. This series began in 2000 with just a couple thousand runners, but now it brings tens of thousands to Nashville. What better way to see the city than to go on a running tour?
One constant on the course is local running celebrity and Hendersonville resident Scott Wietecha. He has won the RNR Nashville marathon an unprecedented four years in a row, a huge accomplishment. In fact, he’s the only person who has ever won four consecutive times in the thirty races held by Competitor Group, Inc.
I have been lucky to have him as a coach for the past year and got to take a moment with him to ask him some questions. An extremely down-to-earth guy, he is a husband, father of two adorable children and a PE teacher at Jack Anderson Elementary School in Hendersonville. Between working, fathering and running, he still finds time to coach close to twenty runners, including local high school athletes, as well as coach the Music City Super Squad, an elementary-age cross country team he started. He states his focus with the kids is to have their first experience with running be positive.
His most memorable RNR Nashville moment was when he won his first race. “Nobody knew I was running it,” Scott said. “I didn’t know it would be so big.” That was the second RNR Nashville marathon he ran; the first time he ran it, he came in second. When he won in 2013, he wasn’t even running to win. It was actually a training run in preparation for the U.S. Half Marathon Championships that June – which he says was the best race of his life.
Another memorable RNR moment was his three-peat victory. He had competition with an elite Kenyan runner, and this provided him with a challenge. When his competitor set a very fast pace Scott wanted to back off, but he had to keep up to not allow his competitor to get the edge on him. He told me this wasn’t the best race strategy, but he knew he “had to go head-to-head with him and beat him at his own game.”
Scott was able to not only keep up with him, but he ended up beating him by ten minutes. These one-on-one battles are one of his favorite parts of the marathon. Scott said while running an even pace is the most efficient way to race, when you are racing to win it is all about reading the opponent, incorporating both the physical and mental aspects of running is key.
One of the most common questions he gets is how he started and developed a passion for running. He has been running since the sixth grade, with only a three-year break after college. When he started teaching he wanted to be more involved with running so he volunteered with the cross-country team at Beech High School. This was a way to be involved in the community, and help ignite the passion of running in students. The more he ran with them, the more “addicted” to running he became, and faster.
These days he runs 100 or more miles a week with a max of 132 miles. To do that requires serious discipline and he has to take in 4,000 calories every day. To get in that many calories he’ll drink smoothies, taking in 600-700 calories in one sitting. He mixes bananas, protein powder, peanut butter, whole milk or kefir and chia seeds. He has to constantly eat during the day and told me he has a weakness for sweets and junk food, so they are on the daily list of foods he consumes. With burning off that many calories, he’s able to get away with it.
Running a race is very challenging physically and mentally. How does an elite runner push past that mental block that can happen towards the end of the race, to keep going, to push to win? Basically, how do you not quit when you hit that wall? “It comes from all the hard training,” says Scott. “You need to be prepared and get it done during training.” In order to make it happen on race day, you can’t skimp out on training. “Putting in the work is what gets results.”
This will be my second year running the half marathon. They have changed the course this year, eliminating a hill towards the end of the course. I know that will be a relief to a lot of people who have run this race before! I think it is a good idea to have a race lined up because it keeps me challenged, focused and pushing. Knowing that I have something specific I am training for pushes me to work harder during training. Scott hasn’t decided yet if he’ll be running the St. Jude RNR Nashville Marathon to defend his title.
No matter who lines up at the start line, though, it will be an amazing race. Musicians line the course to keep everyone motivated, along with incredible crowd support. If you’re a runner and you haven’t signed up yet, join the 30,000-plus runners that will be out there, and run along the streets of Nashville. If you’re going to be in Nashville that day, come support all your local runners in the race. You will not be disappointed!