The 10th running of the VHTRC Women's Half Marathon Trail Run was a success with 168 finishers led by Kirstin Eddy in 1:55:25. In keeping with the generally relaxed nature of the event, we expanded our "during the race" contests to include yo-yo tricks, blowing up flotation devices, and carrying two enormous stuffed cows from some point on the trail to the finish line. We also held a competition for both runners and volunteers to guess the "true" distance of the half-marathon course (the winner "dreamed" the correct distance the night before) and added the now popular VHTRC all-male cheerleading squad, which made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in -uh-polish.
It promised to be a hot run with temperatures expected to reach the low 80's. But a rousing rendition of "Happy Trails" from the VHTRC All-male Chorus followed by a enthusiastic and equally unrehearsed cheer form the VHTRC All-male Cheerleading Squad (complete with pom pons) got the runners off to an enthusiastic start. As the women looped the parking lot to spread out before getting onto the single-tracked hiking trail, 40 male cheerleaders sprinted to the trail entrance and cheered and waived pom pons enthusiastically as the women funneled single file between them and onto the trail.
The first half of the trail consists of steep climbs and descents all the way to the first aid station and turn-a-round point and, this has always been a stretch where at least one runner takes a bad fall each year. This year was no exception. Three runners dropped before the first aid station with twisted ankles, the worst for Karen Kincer, 30 of Rockville, MD who was literally carried out of the woods by a spectator, Chris Shanley accompanied by his faithful hound Baylee. He was assisted by VHTRC volunteer Rob Saraniero. Karen was transported by ambulance to the hospital where her sprain was treated and released. Luise Armstrong, 42, or North Little Rock, Arkansas took a fall on the first half as well. It did not cramp her running and instantly put her in first place for the "Best Mud" award. This was the first year this award has been given, since it's generally been hard to find any mud on the course -- particularly in a drought year -- much less manage to coat half one's body with it.
The winner was never in doubt as Kirsten Eddy, 31 of Reston, VA led the runners throughout the race to finish first. She was followed by Heather Trainium 31 of Reston, VA in 1:58:21. Michelle Burr, 36, of Gathersburg, MD was running in ninth place at the halfway point, but moved up to third to finish in the top five for the third year in a row at 2:00:59.
All the runners, fast and slow, were on the look out for a man lurking in the woods wearing a red bow tie and carrying two enormous plush black and white cows. Whoever carried either of the cows across the finish line would receive a gift certificate for a pair of Montrail running shoes. With the cows safely hidden in a gully beside the course Stan Dubonis, the man in the red tie, debated on how to distribute the cows. Finally, he decided to put one well off the trail in the woods and see what happened. He had barely placed the cow in a location barely discernable from the trail when a runner came by, Jennifer Luttrell, 24, from Gainesville, FL. She saw the cow and dashed off the course to pick it up to carry to the finish line. The other one, Stan confessed, didn't make it out of his hands when he tried to place it a distance from the trail sometime later. A runner spied him and the cow from the crest of a hill as she ran down the trail and immediately appropriated it.
Runners found other items along the trail such as key rings attached to pom pons which were later redeemed for prizes. At the second aid station runners did yo-yo tricks for prizes while at the third aid station volunteers distributed inflatable flotation devices that runners had to blow up and wear as they crossed the finish line.
But everyone waited to learn what the true distance of the women's half marathon trail runs was and who would win the giant Italian food basket. Past runners and volunteers were in agreement that the actual course was longer than a half marathon with estimates ranging from 13.5 to 15 miles, but none had ever measured the actual distance. The person who guessed the distance within one hundredth of a mile was Colleen Snyder, 46 of Linden, VA. Upon receiving the award, she confessed that the distance she guessed had been revealed to her in a dream the night before. Colleen was a first time trail racer who had participated in the practice runs held before the race. When the distance of 13.84 miles was announced as the "real" distance, an immediate protest was lodged concerning the accuracy of the measurement (too short), but under intense cross examination Larry De Hof successfully defended his methods and the distance is likely to stand -- until the park changes the trails again which is scheduled to occur later this year.
Tucked away in the woods, the "extra" aid station located at eight miles (going out) and 11++ coming back was manned by the McConnell family who cheered everyone but especially wife and mother Patti. Danny and daughter -- complete with loud music -- were a big hit for the third year, so the race management will probably have to start listing it as an "official" aid station. Patti McConnell, 51 of Fallston, MD is a three-year veteran of the course and was the first to register for the event this year (her letter had arrived within 24 hours of opening registration on the Web site).
When it's all said and done, it is the people who participate in this race -- as both runners and volunteers that make it so special. The women runners offer words of encouragement and support as they pass each other on the double out and back. The volunteers at the aid stations, cheer, badger, and encourage the women to continue on the course. The day is a celebration of the courage, commitment, and mental toughness required to be an athlete.
Valerie Meyer, Margie Schlundt, Rob Saraniero, Jeff Reed, Victoria Kendall, Bea Kendall, Marcia Peters, Scott Mills, Joe Malinowski, Tom Corris, Joe Clapper, Valerie Meyer, Larry De Hof, Stan Dubonis Anstr Davidson , James and Rebecca Moore , Christ Scott , Gordon Smith, Marshall Contino and father, Robin Kane, Van Keane, Bill Turrentine, Bob Phillips, Bob Cooper, Ernie Fore, George McVeigh, Ann Landy, Jaret Sieberg, Monty Johnson, Gary Alexander, Ed Demoney, Jim Cavanaugh, Sarah Dondero, Nancy Rickert, Mike McCumber, Danny McConnell and Daughter.
Finally, there was an exception list of sponsors this year who contributed many unique and memorable prizes from the capilene running shirts supplied by Patagonia given to all runners to the gift certificates from Metro Run and Walk to the commemorative bottles of wine from Piscataway Vineyards. Thank you:
Until Next Year,
About the Photos
There are many photos of the event available on this Web site. They vary in quality. The ones from the first aid station are often fuzzy. The photos from the finish line are a bit better. The pictures are in collages. If you want an individual photo e-mailed to you, there is information on how to do that on the photo page. The picture page is designed so that pictures load in the background while you are viewing. This may take awhile on a slow connection.
There was a professional photographer at the event. He will mail you a picture of you that is probably better than mine. His price is probably a bit more than mine! Also, I missed a few people, and I doubt he did! You get what you pay for!