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Colonial Half Marathon featured slowest men's time in 37-year history

The Virginia Gazette

Although the race for the prize money ($500, $300, $200 for men and women) gets much of the immediate attention (Wednesday's Virginia Gazette article), there were many other interesting stories from Sunday's 37th annual Sentara Colonial Half Marathon, including the competitive 5K race.

The weather, with sunny skies and a high of 66, was a two-edged sword. It was obviously preferable to the 2015 weather, when icy conditions on the course canceled the half marathon portion of the race, which has been held annually since 1979. The only other year the half marathon wasn't held was in 1990, when the race had a transition from national sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch (until 1989, as part of an employee wellness program), to local sponsorship by the Williamsburg brewery, until Sentara Healthcare took over as the title sponsor in 2012. Anheuser Busch remains the beer served, though, at the post-race party inside William and Mary Hall.

But while the weather was great for spectating, as well as for the on-course volunteers — race marshals and water stop personnel (the W&M track team) — it led to the slowest men's winning time in race history, with winner Will Christian, 32, of Norfolk timed in 1:11:46, just over a minute ahead of runner-up Adam Otstot, 33, of Williamsburg (1:12:55). Only three other times did Colonial have a men's winning time over 1:10, by former W&M distance star Jim Shields in 1981 (1:10:03), by a Charlottesville runner in '83 (1:10:15), and by an Ethiopian runner in 2014 (1:10:37).

Besides the weather, the absence of the usual international influx of Kenyans, Ethiopians or Eastern Europeans was responsible for the relatively slow winning time. Christian was only the second American to win the men's title at Colonial since Mark Andrews ran a 1:05:46 in 1998. The other time was when Ricky Flynn, 24, of Lynchburg won in 2012 in 1:07:18.

The warm weather also meant that no race five-year age-group records were broken in 2016, although Katharine Johnson, 66, of Woodbridge ran 2:20:38, just 30 seconds shy of the 2:20:08 mark for women age 65-69. And befitting a race that attracts runners from up and down the East Coast, and was featured in the January issue of Runner's World Magazine, few of the race records are held by local runners. The all-time course records are 1:04:39 by Steve Taylor of Fincastle in 1991 on the old Colonial Parkway course, and 1:05:22 by Azat Rakipov of Belarus in 2005 on the current Carter's Grove Country Road/Kingsmill course. For the women the records are 1:16:08 by Inge Schuurmans of Boulder, Colo. in 1994 on the old course, and 1:15:02 by Anna Pichrtova of Waynesboro and the Czech Republic on the current course.

A local runner, Williamsburg's John Piggott, a five-time Masters (ages 40-and-over) champion at Colonial, however, does hold the Masters record on the current course, 1:15:02 in 2007 at age 41. Piggott, now 50, almost won a sixth Masters title on Sunday, placing second for the Masters in 1:25:12. The only other age records by runners from the Hampton Roads area are by Lew Faxon of Hampton (1:13:14, men 45-49, in 1986), Mel Williams of Norfolk (1:21:04, men 55-59, in 1993 and 1:25:53, men 60-64, in 1999), Robert S. White of Hampton (1:32:07, men 65-69, in 1989), and Joyce Ploeger of Norfolk (1:29:01, women 45-49 in 1989). Faxon and White are both members of the Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame.

In the accompanying 5K on Sunday, two teenagers ran away from the pack, with Dan Brown, 18, of Bedford winning in 17:40, and Patrick Sutphin, 16, of Mechanicsville second in 17:46. Will Sickenberger, 22, of Reston was third overall in 17:51. The top local runner was Corey Ames, 23,of Williamsburg in 19:44, just ahead of the Peninsula Track Club's 2015 Grand Prix champion, Chris Novakoski, 34, of Franklin (19:59). Douglas Flapp, 44, of Williamsburg was the men's Masters winner in the 5K, timed in 20:54.

For the women, Lena Gaffney, 19, of Williamsburg was the winner in 20:44, followed by Linnea Dodson, 55, of Berwyn Heights, Md. (21:11) and Katherine Caggiano, 14, of Smithfield (22:23). With Dodson placing in the top three overall, the Masters first-place award for the women went to Julie Vaughn, 47, of Virginia Beach, in 23:48.

Williamsburg runners winning age group awards in the half marathon included Quinn Monette (second, men 20-24, 1:30:30), Austin Morgan (third, men 20-24, 1:32:42), Roger Hopper (first, men 25-29, 1:20:43), Paul Pelletier (third, men 50-54, 1:33:05), Will Murray (third, men 60-64, 1:47:18), George Carrigan (first, men 65-69, 2:00:49), Bill Moore (third, men 65-69, 2:02:14), Larry Arata (first, men 70-and-over, 2:26:15), Molly Dinneen (third, women 19-and-under, 2:00:10), Lisa Osterhoudt (third, women 30-34, 1:35:00) and Jessica Riggs (first, women 35-39, 1:32:38). Carol Talley of Toano was first for women 60-64 in 2:04:21.

In the 1K walk, the top three were James Acree, 73, of Carrollton (9:04), Gail Simmons, 66, of Williamsburg (9:07) and Jim Goggin, 62, of Williamsburg (9:08).

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