The contrasts between the top-three finishers in Sunday’s fifth annual Run for the Dream half marathon were dramatic.
Defending champion David Angell, 38, of Blue Ridge (near Roanoke) was in the same shape as a year ago, when he won in 1:10:33. He hoped to repeat that time and win again this year, although the course record of 1:09:28 (by Matthew Kroetch of Chantilly in 2011, the first year), was out of the question when the weather forecast turned hot and humid.
Last year’s half marathon was held under unseasonably cool and dry conditions, as opposed to this year, when the morning low of 72 degrees rapidly moved through the 70s, despite the 7 a.m. start time, all with sticky humidity.
Angell is a smart racer, and he didn’t go out too fast. Colson Williams, 22, of Richmond, stayed close to him for a mile, into the Colonial Williamsburg portion of the race, but Angell pulled out to a huge lead by the three-mile mark, heading down Route 60 to Kingsmill, looking relaxed throughout, and with miles splits in the 5:20s and a five-mile split of 27:08 (which would have placed him fourth overall in Saturday’s 8K, had he run that).
But the rising temperatures, and the constant hills of the Carter’s Grove Country Road portion of the course, took its toll. Angell’s closing miles were at 6:00 pace, his face was strained, and he looked back at every turn, a clear sign of trouble.
While he meet his pre-race goal of successfully defending his half marathon title, Angell’s time of 1:14:33 was exactly four minutes slower than his 2014 time, and he fell to his knees immediately after crossing the finish line on the Zable Stadium track, and had to be helped up by the race medical personnel.
In contrast, the second-place finisher, Warrior Challenge winner Ryan Carroll, 32, of Portsmouth was “cool as a cucumber” when he entered the track, smiling, waving to the crowd, and looking totally refreshed, and finishing in 1:15:56, after predicting that same 1:15 before the race.
One would have thought Carroll would have been the tired runner, as he won the 5K Friday evening in 16:24, and was fourth in Saturday morning’s 8K in 27:22.
Carroll’s success in the Warrior Challenge came from “no effort being ‘all out’ but rather ‘controlled.’ I ultimately felt great throughout, but have to credit that to sticking to the plans laid out by my coaches, Julia and Alan Webb. Heat and hills were definitely prominent throughout the weekend. Strategy definitely came into play over the three days in regards to hydration, recovery, and how to approach the courses, each day. The highlight of all three is the finish on the William and Mary track at Zable Stadium.”
Carroll raved about the Patriot Running Festival organization, although with inside knowledge. His wife works for Mettle Events, the timing company for the Flat Out Events races, saying, “Flat Out Events did a spectacular job, all around, from packet pickup to post-race festivities, top notch.”
Third place went to Williams, who was caught by Carroll around three miles into the race, and settled for a 1:19:26. Like Carroll, he looked fresh crossing the finish line. Williams graduated from Oklahoma State University just three weeks earlier, where he started as a baseball player at 180 pounds, but transformed himself into a runner two years ago, now weighing between 135 and 140 pounds.
He now has a job with Fleet Feet running store locations in Richmond and Short Pump, while waiting to start law school this fall at the University of Richmond. His appearances (shoulder-length hair, slim build, and thin mustache), give him an uncanny resemblance to the legendary Steve Prefontaine, so much so that Williams’s co-workers at Fleet Feet have nicknamed him “Pre."
The previous week had seen the 40th anniversary of the death in May 1975 of Prefontaine at age 24 in a tragic overturned car accident. Prefontaine at the time held every American long distance track record, but it was his daring racing style that still endears him to track fans everywhere, and there is a Nike sponsored track meet every year, the Pre Classic, at the University of Oregon in Eugene, that was held last weekend.
Williams is now training at 100 miles per week, and is peaking for the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. in June, with a sub-2:40 goal. He said, “I really enjoyed the half marathon, and it was a great introduction for me to what it is like racing in Virginia. Moving here from Oklahoma, I am glad to know that the level of competition in Virginia is of a higher caliber. It will only make me a stronger athlete and competitor.”
Williamsburg’s John Piggott, 50, the Patriot Challenge winner (8K and half marathon combined) was fifth overall in 1:25:07, which gave him the Masters (ages 40-and-over) title. Second and third for the Masters were Colonial Road Runners vice president Greg Dawson, 49, of Williamsburg, the 1:30 pace group leader, who dipped under that mark with a time of 1:29:13, and Yorktown’s Dane Howell, 43, timed in 1:33:10.
Dawson paced the women’s winner, Margaret Muhly, 39, of Bala Cynwyd, PA (Philadephia suburbs) for much of the race, and she also dipped under that 1:30 goal with a time of 1:29:48. Second and third went to Tanja Cutting, 45, of Rapid City, SC (1:32:43) and Jamestown High coach Laura Shannon, 52, of Williamsburg (1:34:44).
Muhly didn’t even know the Run for the Dream Half Marathon existed until Friday when, while on a family vacation to Williamsburg, she went online to see if there were any running events in the area. The distance and day were perfect, and she entered the race late Saturday afternoon.
“It was an enjoyable morning, one day into our family vacation. I was pleased that I could join local Williamsburg area runners as well as support a good cause. The course was certainly challenging, one of the toughest halves I have ever run. I have been running races for 20 years, but got more competitive in my thirties. I love to run long distances when I am not injured, but I am passionate about triathlons as well. So I do a lot of swimming and biking to supplement my running. I think 13.1 is a perfect distance. Staying half marathon trained all year long is a goal of mine. You all certainly held a race that put my fitness to the test!”
Age graded in the half marathon, the top-eight finishers were Shannon (80.14 percent), Angell (79.60 percent), Carroll (76.89 percent), Piggott (76.54 percent), Cutting (75.63 percent), Muhly (74.62 percent), Williams (73.50 percent) and Dawson (72.37 percent).
The women’s Masters top three were Arlyne Spalla Benson, 46, of Yorktown (1:41:29) over Janet Waren, 42, of Wilmington, NC (1:43:42), and Shannon Carpenter, 40, of Ashland. Waren, as Janet Adams, was a former distance running star for Bruton High, and grew up in Queens Lake.
Other notable Williamsburg or Yorktown runners among the top finishers were Jason Roth, 35 (1:33:43), William Courtemanche (1:34:06), race medical director Daniel Ballin (1:35:32, seventh in the Warrior Challenge), John Muckley (1:35:39), Tom Maddux (1:36:21) and Lisa Osterhoudt (a personal record 1:36:59).
Men’s winner Angell said, “I was really excited to get the win, and that was the main goal yesterday, but man did it hurt. I checked my records when I got home, and that was my second slowest half ever by a good bit, but I’ll still gladly take the win. I won’t deny that I am disappointed with my time, but I think it was a combination of several things.
The heat and humidity were probably the biggest factor, because I just haven’t gotten acclimated to it yet.
“I’m just not in top half marathon shape right now. My last half marathon was the Columbus Half in October (1:10:00 for 16th place overall). Then in November I set a new 8K PR at Richmond (25:05 for 14th place overall).
After that, I basically switched gears for track season hoping to break my 5K PR. I ran several indoor meets and about five meets outdoors (with a season best of 15:27), but everything was 5K or less. I’m 38, so I’m getting to the age where having a slower race than you’re used to makes you wonder if it’s the beginning of father time finally catching up. But I’d say no. Unlike most people, I’m actually looking forward to turning 40 in about a year and a half, entering the master’s ranks, and being competitive like John Piggott.”
Angell ran for Frankin County High, with several district championships, graduating in 1995, then ran for Roanoke College, with five ODAC titles in cross country and track. He currently runs for the Roanoke Valley Elite team, and is a software engineer for Valcom in Roanoke.
His other lifetime PRs are 31:04 for 10K, 1:08:29 for the half marathon, and 2:41:20 for the marathon. A week before both the 2014 and 2015 Run for the Dream races, he ran the same 15:22 at Roanoke’s Festival in the Park 5K, and that was the reason he again expected a 1:10 time. “I guess 5K shape doesn’t necessarily translate to half marathon shape,” Angell concluded.
Women’s 8K race winner Michele (Shelby) Bryceland, 24, of Virginia Beach found out about the race from William and Mary track coach Natalie Hall. Bryceland has the Virginia Wesleyan College school records for the indoor 5,000 meters (18:30) and 3,000 meters (10:46), as well as the outdoor 5,000 meters (18:40).
Her road PRs include a 39:00 (10K), 1:03:18 (10 miles) and 1:23:16 (half marathon) with Saturday’s 8K her first attempt at that distance.
Like Bryceland, men’s 8K winner Greg Mariano, 29, of Alexandria has benefited from outside coaching. A year ago he joined the Capital Area Runners, coached by former Bucknell star George Buckheit, after burning out in the spring of 2014 and running poorly at Boston.
He has improved his half marathon PR from 1:11:27 to 1:08:44, his marathon PR from 2:29:26 to 2:26:48 at Chicago, and had a 2:24 equivalent at the April 2015 Glass City Marathon in Toledo, which had a series of course mishaps with poor marshaling. He also ran an 11th-place 1:08:52 at this year’s Shamrock Half Marathon.
Mariano commented about this week’s race, “The organization at the Patriot Festival was like night and day compared to Glass City. I never had to think about which way I was supposed to go, which is how it should be!”