By Doug Hawley
If officials for Saturday’s Dalton Red Carpet races are looking to award a family for having the most participants, a local contingent rates as quite a favorite.
Marisol Martinez, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mom, plans to run the half marathon, which is in its second year. Her seven children all are competing in the 5K — sons Servio, 16, Antonio, 14, Jordy, 13, Jessie, 11, and Brain, 10, as well as daughters Marisol, 8, and Evelie, 6.
The family, which includes supportive father Hugo, lives near the east Whitfield County line. The children all attend schools in Murray County.
“I’m happy to be running in races with my children,” Marisol said. “It makes for good family togetherness.”
David Sanders, who serves as the event’s co-race director with Rick Little, obviously appreciates the Martinez entourage.
“The Martinez family is a credit not only to the running community in Whitfield and Murray counties but also to the communities as a whole,” Sanders said. “They always have a large competitive group of runners at almost every race in this area. You can always count on them to show up, be competitive and greet everyone with a smile. They are a wonderful family.”
The Martinez family participation swells to 10 with Hugo’s brother, Jose, 46, and his wife, Rosie, 45, both of Dalton, entering the half marathon.
“I started training pretty much everybody about five or six years ago,” Jose said. “Our first race was the New Hope 5K. We all liked it and went from there.”
Marisol ran a strong two hours and one minute in the 13.1-mile race’s debut here a year ago. She has logged a 25:15 in the 5K.
“My goal is to break two hours this time,” she said. “I hope to be in the 1:50s.”
From an age group standpoint, Jessie has been particularly impressive among the children. He clocked an 18:40 5K in a cross country meet at Fort Mountain State Park.
Other quality performances from that race included Servio, a Murray County High sophomore, at 17:15; Antonio, a Gladden Middle eighth-grader at 19:30; Jordy, a Gladden Middle seventh-grader, at 22:50; and Brain, a Spring Place Elementary third-grader, at 23:40.
The younger Marisol, a second-grader at Spring Place, ran a 14-minute 2K at the most recent Bill Gregory Classic, while Evelie, a Spring Place kindergartner, clocked a 9:20 mile last year at the Walnut Square Scorcher.
“The kids are running in their various school races,” Jose said. “When they’re not, we all try to train together.”
Hugo, a 43-year-old construction worker in Chattanooga, often has had to hurry home to get his children to various races.
“I’m very happy to see my wife and children all running,” he said. “Rain or shine, they are out running. I try to be as supportive as I can.”
Jose, who is employed at Shaw Plant 20, has completed three marathons and four half marathons. His 27:48 at Eton’s four-mile race in 2008 set a state record for his age group.
Rosie, a perennial age group contender who has worked for a dozen years at Family Support Council for Healthy Families, ran a 2:07 half marathon last year.
Start times for Saturday’s races, which start and end near the Whitfield County Courthouse, are 8 a.m. for the half marathon, 8:30 a.m. for the 5K and 11:30 a.m. for the 2K. A festival will follow starting at 3 p.m., with a concert by Sister Hazel at 7 and fireworks at 8:30.
Proceeds from the race will benefit local charities Family Promise and City of Refuge.