The third One City Marathon tied up Sunday with a slight drop in total registered runners and without major issues, despite unseasonably cold weather.
Organizers are "absolutely planning" on a marathon next year, said Telly Whitfield, assistant to the city manager and the city's lead organizer for the race, as he cheered on some runners who were crossing the finish line Sunday.
Temperatures in the 30s and a wind chill in the mid-20s greeted the event's earliest runners and stayed almost constant throughout the morning. Sunday's temperatures were about 10 to 15 degrees below what they usually are this time of year, said Bill Sammler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Wakefield.
Registration numbers were down from a year ago, when weather conditions were more ideal, but higher than for the inaugural event in 2015.
About 2,670 people were registered, with 453 in the marathon, 706 in the Maritime 8K, 953 for the Nautical Mile and 558 for the marathon relay, according to race organizer Flat-Out Events.
There were about 2,621 registered participants in 2015 and 3,050 in 2016.
Participation Sunday was down from the registration numbers, according to Flat-Out. There were 370 who finished the marathon, 539 finished the 8K and there were 114 relay teams. Race organizers didn't give an estimate of participants in the Nautical Mile, which isn't timed.
Marathon and relay runners had ear warmers, hats and gloves as they piled up at the starting line around 6 a.m., some pacing and rubbing their hands together for warmth.
The marathon and relay races, scheduled for 7 a.m., were delayed by nine minutes because of a participant who had passed out right before the start time, said Jason Todd, president of Flat-Out Events. She regained consciousness quickly and is doing fine, he said.
The cold weather might have produced uncomfortable conditions for many spectators, but it turned out to be good for the runners. John Barley, the primary sports medicine physician with Riverside Sports Medicine in Newport News, said he treated just 30 participants by early afternoon, less than half the number a year ago when the temperatures were more than 20 degrees warmer.
"There were a lot of cold injuries that I call 'frost-nip,' where we had to re-warm people and there was some dehydration," he said. "But when the temperatures are a little warmer you have more injuries and dehydration."
The Newport News Police Department was not notified of any major problems during the race, according to Brandon J. Maynard, department spokesman.
The event is meant to showcase Newport News, as the 26.2-mile course runs from Newport News Park to the Victory Arch downtown.
As runners continued to cross the finish line at noon Sunday, Todd said he'd heard from a few people who had positive feedback.
"Being as cold as it was, I wasn't sure what to expect," Todd said.
Valerie Atlee, a marathon participant from Yorktown, said the race was "so well-organized" that she won't be returning to Virginia Beach's Shamrock marathon next year because it's too crowded. She said she did notice a thinner spectator crowd this year.
"So, you feel like you had more people who cheered you on last year — this time, not so much," Atlee said.
Several of the wave stations — designated areas along the course for people to cheer on the runners — were empty, "absolutely" a result of the cold weather, Whitfield said. Organizers were expecting a smaller crowd, he said.
Still, pockets of the race course had cheerleaders, some who flew and drove hours to see relatives run. Others walked out their front doors to cheer on people in their neighborhoods. Students from area schools, including Warwick High School, arranged cheering crowds along the route. A drumline was out by Denbigh High School.
Cindy Van Schooten and daughter Jess Denney traveled from Redding, Calif., to see Cindy's daughter and Jess' sister Jackie Hoffman run her third marathon. They stood at Boxley Boulevard and Summerlake Lane, waiting for Hoffman and her husband to pass by.
They cheered for strangers who were passing on bicycle and foot. Denney's neon yellow sign read: "I'm proud of you, complete stranger."
Andrew and Mark VanDeren, brothers who grew up in Newport News, came from North Carolina and Richmond to cheer on participants in their hometown's event. The VanDerens set up a makeshift wave station at Hiden and Warwick boulevards.
"We're runners ourselves, but not good enough for the marathon yet. We know as runners that it is really great to have someone cheer for you, so that's why we made our own station and came out," Mark VanDeren said.
The final runner in the marathon and relay was expected to cross the finish line at the Victory Arch soon after 2 p.m., Whitfield said. He was watching the last bunch of runners filter through.
"One of the last runners was coming along, another runner slowed down to push her through," Whitfield said. "And that's exactly what we wanna see — the camaraderie."
Staff writer Marty O'Brien contributed to this report. Amin can be reached by phone at 757-247-4890. Joseph can be reached by phone at 757-374-3134.