The Greenbelt’s history includes many people who over the years have helped to shape this wonderful Kingsport treasure. Kernie Timmons is one of those individuals who has been there since the beginning – when the trail was mud and gravel and was rough on tennis shoes. After all, he’s a marathon runner, and he had to do something about that.
Kernie was a former plant manager for AFG Industries. He currently lives near Mendota with his wife, and together they have a wedding venue called Swinging Bridge Farms.
He describes one his early experiences with the Greenbelt from a Rotary meeting he was attending.
“Kitty Frazier was talking about the Greenbelt, and she asked how many people used the trail in the past month. Well, several people raised their hands. Then she asked every week, and a few more went up. When she asked every day, I was the only one with his hand in the air.”
Kernie’s family has a history of weight problems, so he started running early on to combat that legacy and more than anything relieve stress from his responsibilities at the glass plant where he worked.
Describing some his early efforts, Kernie talks about the trail and the benches.
“When I was working out at the former “Kingsport Racquetball and Fitness Center,” I noticed people walking through the fields to get to the Greenbelt. It was muddy and hard to go to. I had access to some guys who came down and lay down some gravel. It wasn’t long after the City paved that area.”
He continued, “Back in the day, people were starting to put benches in the community, and I thought, we need a standard bench design. So, we got our engineering group and designed a sturdy, cheap bench back in 1991. Not long after, we worked with one of our retirees, Cleve Hightower who would build them cheaper than you could buy them. If you look down The Greenbelt, you see the same bench design. We put some up at Bays Mountain at the fire tower too. The continuity looked good.”
A runner who has used The Greenbelt to train for five marathons, Kernie likes the cool shade on the trail. He’s run the Chicago marathon…twice. He ran others at Kiawah Island, The Marine marathon and another for the Leukemia Society.
Looking back, he described what may have sparked his passion for running.
“You know, I didn’t start running until I was 50. I remember my elementary baseball coach told me that I didn’t know how to run, that I was not a good runner and didn’t have the form.”
Of course, he also talks about his guidance counselor who told him he wasn’t smart enough to be an engineer. That challenge didn’t stop him either.
Now that he’s retired from AFG, he continues to run 5 1/2 miles every other day. He starts out on American Way – runs to the Exchange Place and back to turn around at mile-marker 2.5.”
In addition to the running ritual, he also practices yoga and works out at the gym on the days he’s not on the trail.
Kernie is one of those individuals who care. He cares enough to set a goal for himself and accomplish whatever he sets out to do. More important, he’s involved. Walking away on the day of this interview, he picked up an empty plastic bottle.
“It’s just one of those things I try to do every time I can,” he said.