One City Marathon champion Chris Zablocki did not sign up for the race until less than 48 hours before its start at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The 28-year-old from Essex, Conn., is preparing for the Boston Marathon in April and planned to take a long training run this weekend. Then he looked at the weather forecast: Temperatures in his town would barely creep above 20 degrees.
"Already on a run Friday morning, my face was so cold it almost fell off," Zablocki said. "So then I was like: I'm coming to Virginia."
He remembered the One City from a marathon calendar, so he signed up on Friday afternoon and made the drive to Newport News on Saturday.
While the eight-hour drive ended up taking more than 10, he cruised the 26.2 miles of the marathon in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 52 seconds to take first place overall.
Greta Sieve, the women's division champion, also registered for the race at the last minute.
Sieve moved to Williamsburg in November and started introducing herself to the local running community. Soon, the experienced runner had settled into her new routine and her new environment. As she reflected on her smooth transition Friday, she decided to sign up for the local marathon.
"It was kind of spur-of-the-moment, but it was wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Sieve said. "The course was great. The support on the course was amazing."
Even the temperature, which hovered in the low 30s, did not dampen Sieve's day.
"I'm from Minnesota originally, so this is beautiful," Sieve said. "I could run in this all day."
Sieve set a course record and a personal best with a time of 2:52:00.
At 2:25:52, Zablocki came in 27 seconds behind the course record set by Bryan Morseman last year.
Morseman, 31, of Bath, N.Y., finished third this time around in 2:28:56. Greg Mariano, 31, of Alexandria, placed second in 2:27:33. Ryan Carroll, 34, placed fourth in 2:33:35. The top four runners finished within eight minutes of each other and 13 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.
Zablocki, who participated in the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon trials, moved in front within the first few miles of the race, with Morseman drafting behind him. Then during mile 11, about an hour into the race, Mariano motored in from behind and started running alongside the lead runners.
Zablocki, though, always planned to pick up his speed in the second half of the race. Once the trio of lead runners passed the halfway point on Warwick Boulevard, Zablocki pulled out in front. Within a mile, he had moved 40 yards ahead of both Morsman and Mariano.
Within another mile, he overtook the pickup truck that marked the front of the race. The truck slowed down for speed bumps on the campus of Christopher Newport University, but Zablocki continued to accelerate, so he hopped onto the grass beside the road and ran alongside the truck for several seconds.
"I didn't mind," Zablocki said. "My legs, they take a beating from going on the pavement so long, so they're always happy to go on the grass."
Around the same time, Morseman peeled off for a bathroom break, which left him several minutes behind Mariano.
"I felt bad for him, but I took advantage of the opportunity and put down a really fast mile while he was in the bathroom," Mariano said.
The three runners maintained those relative positions for the rest of the race.
In the women's division, Marie-Ange Brumelot of New York took second place in 2:56:17, and Kelsey Wheelock of Newport News took third place in 2:58:44.
The first-place winners each won $1,000 prizes. The second-place finishers in the men's and women's divisions won $500, and the third-place finishers won $250.
Two-time reigning champion Sika Henry of Newport News finished in fourth place in 3:00:06, nearly seven minutes better than her previous personal best of 3:06:55, her winning time from the 2016 marathon.
However, the 33-year-old had set a personal goal of breaking the three-hour mark. She fell six seconds short.
"I'm pretty heartbroken, but I gave it my all," Henry said. "I did everything I could possibly do."
John Piggott of Williamsburg, who placed fifth in the Maritime 8K, ran backward up the marathon course after his own race finished so he could meet up with Henry and help her through the last few miles. They met at mile 22, then Piggott paced Henry and encouraged her the rest of the way.
While Henry could not shake off the disappointment of barely falling short of her goal, she still enjoyed the race through her hometown.
"There is nothing that can compare to it," Henry said. "I might not have won, but I couldn't tell the difference because of all the cheers and claps and high-fives I got."
Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176.