The 2018 area running season started the same way the 2017 season ended — with extreme and challenging winter weather. On Dec. 9, for the ninth annual Sentara Sleighbell 5K Run, runners and walkers had their most miserable weather yet, with 34 degrees, moderately heavy cold rain and windy conditions. On New Year’s Day, it was brutally cold for the 13th annual Hair of the Dog 5K Run, with a race starting time temperature of 21 degrees, as the unrelenting arctic invasion continued into its second week.
Yet runners patiently endure. There were 595 official finishers at the Sentara Sleighbell race in December, and there were 337 official finishers Monday for the Hair of the Dog. And it could have been worse. Tuesday morning the temperatures were a couple degrees colder than Monday, Thursday morning the race would not have been held due to the half foot or so of snow in Williamsburg, and this Sunday morning record low temperatures of around 5 degrees are predicted.
Race director Kevin Hupp of Mettle Events commented. “We started Hair of the Dog in 2006 and originally had it at Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach. One year (2010) we held it on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk due to construction at Trashmore. We decided to move it Williamsburg in 2016 because we like the venue and enjoyed the play on Dog and DoG Street (Duke of Gloucester Street). The first year we ran through Colonial Williamsburg, starting and finishing on DoG Street in Merchants Square. Last year, since New Years Day fell on a Sunday, we were asked to move it out of Colonial Williamsburg for Sunday church services, etc. That is when we designed the course through William and Mary. We liked the hilly challenges of the course and the fact that it did not have to run through gravel or over curbs as the previous course did, so we stuck with it for 2018. I believe that this year’s race was our coldest yet, but certainly not the most extreme. I recall one year where we had to shovel 1.5 inches of sheet ice away from our finish area prior to the race start. We’ve also had some cold Mud in Your Eye XC races (a winter series of cross country races). However, the most memorable are the ones we’ve done in snow and or heavy rain, making for some sloppy and challenging courses.”
The Hair of the Dog course started and finished in Merchants Square, and begin with a neighborhood route down South Boundary, Newport and Griffin, before crossing Jamestown Road and entering the College of William and Mary campus on Landrum Drive, going past the Swem Library, Kaplan Arena, Zable Stadium and the University Center, before crossing Richmond Road for the final sprint down Prince George Street (including a 100-foot “tunnel” from a tent set up the day before for the “PG 500” New Year’s Eve celebration at the Amber Ox) and South Boundary Street.
While most of the 433 registrants were from Virginia (396), there were runners from 17 other states for the holiday event. From Virginia, the demographics had 112 from Williamsburg, followed by Newport News (41), Virginia Beach (31), Yorktown (30), Chesapeake (28), Norfolk (23), Hampton (19), Toano (16), Portsmouth (10), Poquoson (10) and Lanexa (eight).
Competitively, one runner stood out for two reasons. Rylan Flint, 18, of Williamsburg, a 2017 Jamestown High grad and currently a freshman at the University of Maryland (but not on the track team), was the fastest of the day, chip timed at 17:33 (5:40 pace per mile), with Jason Bridges, 34, of Newport News second (17:58) and Jason Wood, 36, of Newport News third (18:09). Although a few other runners raced in shorts, Flint was seen warming up an hour before the race in shorts, with temperatures then around 18 degrees, and he raced in just shorts and a Maryland T-shirt, although also with a knit cap and gloves. Flint had finished second overall (in 16:42) at the 2017 Blue Talon Bistro Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning.
For the women, the top three were Megan Doty, 35, of Virginia Beach (21:14), Regina Zimmerman, 33, of Williamsburg (23:31) and Jessica Anderson, 36, of Williamsburg (23:47). Anderson didn’t have to travel far for the race, as she and husband David Anderson (first for men 45-49 in 22:17) moved last July to a townhouse on North Boundary Street, just two blocks from Merchants Square, and they had also attended the PG 500 celebration the night before.
In other categories, Laura Liechti, 56, of Williamsburg (36:50) and Jim Perkins, 52, of Lake Worth FL (36:43) were the winners of the race walk, and Judy Marcello, 45, of Williamsburg won the formal wear costume contest (she was also second for women 45-49 in 27:06), while wearing a maroon cocktail dress, while holding a glass of wine.
In the weight class division, calculated by seconds per pound, the top three women were Natalie Zimmerman, 51, of Cumberland, MD (25:07 time, 9.72 seconds per pound, also first for women 50-54), Jennifer Huebner, 30, of Charlottesville (25:41, 9.75, also first for women 30-34) and Carly Crockett, 24, of Williamsburg (29:22, 9.79). For the men, the top four in the weight class division were Jason Bridges (17:58 time, 6.16 second per pound, also second overall), Michael Sigmon, 30, of Lanexa (19:09, 6.24, also first for men 30-34), Jason Jones, 36, of West Point (24:14, 6.46) and Jason Wood (18:09, 6.48, also third overall).
Age graded, with 70 percent considered regional class, the top ten were Timothy Collins, 56, of Williamsburg (20:46 time, 74.42 percent age graded), men’s winner Rylan Flint (73.95 percent), men’s third place Jason Wood (73.45 percent), men’s runner-up Jason Bridges (73.43 percent), men’s fourth overall Corbin Armstrong, 20, of Poquoson (18:21, 70.72 percent), Larry Jones, 67, of Midlothian (24:05, 70.31 percent), women’s winner Megan Doty (69.95 percent), Mark Smithwick, 58, of Norfolk (22:27, 69.94 percent), men’s fifth overall Logan St. John, 23, of Williamsburg (18:38, 69.64 percent) and Michael Sigmon (67.96 percent).
The same morning, under equally brutal weather conditions (22 degrees at race time), the Peninsula Track Club held their New Year’s Day 5K (formerly the Sentara 5K) on the Matteson Trail in Hampton, organized by the Hampton Center for Health and Fitness. There were 96 entrants and 76 finishers. The top three men were Logan Jackson, 15, of Yorktown (18:53), Craig Hymes, 55, of Yorktown (19:24), and Aaron Candella, 48, of Yorktown (21:28). The top three women were Karen Sanzo, 41, of Hampton (22:03), Kim Ratcliffe, 50, of Yorktown (22:20) and Sheila Scotti, 34, of Newport News (22:56).
Bruce Davis, results coordinator for the PTC, and a weather expert (his email address is “weatherwizard1”), commented, “The New Year’s Day run was probably the coldest in over a decade. A couple of our Winter Chill races were cold, but I don't think it was that cold.”