Winning the One City Marathon Maritime 8K was a breeze from the start for Charlie Hurt, while Pamela Lovett had to work every step to accomplish that.
For Liam Matthews and Bean Doebler, the 4.97-mile race in downtown Newport News was a joyride from start to finish.
It was 32 degrees when the race started 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and while that might have given pause to many competitors, 539 of the 706 registered for it participated.
Mathews, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, did not hesitate at all.
"Liam loves racing, so I didn't have any trouble getting him out of bed this morning," said his mother, Polly Matthews. "When I showed him a picture of what we were going to do, he got up and got dressed without fighting."
That photo was of Liam in a bright red wheelchair specially designed for racing. Richard Crouch, a volunteer with Team Hoyt of Virginia Beach, pushed Liam in the chair for the 8K.
Crouch's girlfriend, Jenny Dugan, also with Team Hoyt, pushed the chair seating 19-year-old Doebler. Team Hoyt volunteers assist special needs athletes throughout the year, Dugan says, to give them the thrill of road racing.
Team Hoyt began in 1977, when Air National Guard Lt. Colonel Dick Hoyt of Boston pushed his special needs son Rick in the first of more than 1,000 races they've done together. The Virginia Beach chapter of Team Hoyt is one of three in the country.
Dugan and Crouch were the only members of the local chapter at the Maritime 8K, but Dugan said that 60 volunteers will wheel special needs athletes in races at next week's Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. Doebler will be one of them.
"He was wheeling and screaming, joyful the entire way," Dugan said of Doebler.
Hurt barely looked labored in crossing the finish line first among males at the Victory Arch in 24 minutes, 52.45 seconds, nearly 25 seconds ahead of Thomas Adam, his teammate with Charlottesville-based Ragged Mountain Racing. Defending champion Adam Otstot, Hurt's distance running teammate at William and Mary more than a decade ago, finished third.
"I know Charlie's fitness level, so I knew I couldn't stay with him for long," Adam said, noting that Hurt broke away from the pack quickly.
Hurt, a former All-Colonial Athletic Association runner for the Tribe, said, "This race was a little tougher than some, because it's spring and we're not as acclimated to the cold.
"It's a flat course, so that's good for the opening of the season. This race is super-organized and they treated us well."
Lovett, from Yorktown, says she trailed Samantha Popovich of Hampton to the three-mile mark. Even after passing her, Lovett could hear Popovich on her heels and forged her victory margin of less than four seconds inch by inch.
"I gradually pulled away," said Lovett, who finished in 34:24.79. Popovich finished in 34:28.23.
"She was a really strong, tough competitor but I like competition. All the wins are big, because I train very hard."
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.