“Completely unexpected,” Ryan James called his victory in the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn., last Saturday.

“I was running to complete it, and it just happened, so it was great.”

His time — 2 hours, 32 minutes, 47 seconds — may sound more solid than stunning, but the fact that it was the first marathon for James, a 19-year-old from Belfast who will be a junior at Berry College in Georgia in the fall, adds considerable luster to the achievement. He also won the race by seven minutes.

Blake Bannister, a teammate of James’ at Berry, was fourth in the marathon in 2:51:33 and paid postrace tribute. “He’s just an aerobic beast,” Bannister told The Tennessean.

James was certainly ready for the 26.2-mile distance. Vikings Coach Paul Deaton had been schooling him toward it for the better part of a year. The school is transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division III, James said, so long races function as an end-of-season treat in place of nationals. Last year, running among a dozen teammates, James won the Flying Pig Half Marathon, in Cincinnati, in 1:13:26.

At Nashville, there were 19 runners from Berry, which James attends on an academic scholarship and works year-round in a school scholarship program.

James, who moved from York to Belfast as a freshman, had a fine high school career, going to New Englands twice. This spring, distance work (his top premarathon week was 96 miles) paid off on the track, as he set personal records in the 800 meters, 5,000 and 10,000 (4:13, 15:28, 32:20).

Experience on Maine hills was good preparation for the up-and-down Nashville course, on which his halfway split of “about 1:15” illustrates a sound pacing strategy. In addition to Deaton’s guidance, James credits the excellent coaching he received in Maine, from Ted Hutch in York to Dale and Jo-Ann Nealy, Henri Bouchard and Keith Holland in Belfast.

James is kicking back for the month, with not much planned except continuing to work at the school in Mount Berry, Ga. He will visit Maine for a week next month, on the 18th when he’ll turn 20, and possibly race a road mile in August as he re-builds his mileage.

Feeling best-suited to long distances, James “definitely will continue” with marathoning after finishing college. After such a great debut, it definitely will be fun to watch his times.

THE 12TH PORTLAND Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K, which goes off at 9:15 a.m. next Sunday, was nearly full as of Friday. The race is capped at 3,000 entrants, and more than 2,600 people (300 in the past week) have signed up for the loop that finishes at Hadlock Field. Online registration closes midnight Thursday.

The event benefits the Maine Cancer Foundation. There’s a kids race (which is capped at 500), with an 8:30 a.m. start.

As always, a number of volunteers are needed for traffic control, registration, finish-line area and so on. (Volunteers are thanked with a pair of Sea Dogs tickets and a race shirt.)

Follow the link at www.mainetrackclub.com to sign up to race or help out.

HERE’S A RACE not to sign up for.

Road Runners Club of America Eastern Director Mark Grandonico says the Freeport Town Council this week voted unanimously not to allow a permit for the Freeport Half Marathon, the second edition of which had been planned for Aug. 12. The race belongs to Dean Reinke Sports Management, based in Winter Park, Fla., and as Grandonico notes, “the RRCA in March revoked Reinke’s membership for violations of its Membership Accountability Policy, which also terminated insurance access to many events he owns.”

Race mismanagement is an issue here, as a Google search of Reinke (Better Business Bureau-graded F) and its USRA series indicates.

“I completely applaud the Freeport Town Council decision,” adds Grandonico, who is an RRCA and Maine Track Club board member.

“Runners have many choices and the RRCA suggests that they shop carefully. Who owns the event, is it safe, how does my community benefit, does a charity benefit — how much?”

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at: [email protected]