Runners sprint into the new year

The new year got off to a running start Tuesday, with the 13th annual Hair of the Dog 5K.

Slightly soggy conditions did nothing to slow the runners down or dampen their spirits as they put the right foot forward to cross the finish line in 2019. Runners — 548 in all — from the area and as far away as San Diego participated.

Ann Hupp, owner of Mettle Events which organizes the race, moved the event to Williamsburg from Virginia Beach three years ago, and she says she couldn't be more pleased with the year's turnout and how it's grown over the years.

“Williamsburg is always so nice, and so accommodating, and you couldn't ask for prettier places to run, that's why we always look forward to come back,” said Hupp.

Hupp said whether runners hope to get started on those New Year's resolutions, run off the lingering hangovers of the preceding New Years Eve or just want to come out for a bit of exercise, the festive New Year’s atmosphere is one of the event's signatures.

“Compared to some of our more typical 5K events, we try to keep things fun and festive with Hair of the Dog," said Hupp. "We like to say that nobody who comes out here (will) leave without feeling a little rewarded, and it's all for a good cause too, so we make sure you get to start the new year off right."

A portion of money raised by the event will be donated toward Jamestown High School's track and field and cross country programs.

Dave Baum, owner of Billsburg Brewery, was on hand to serve up complimentary classes of his craft brews to the runners, marking his second year as one of the event sponsors. He said the charitable touch is a major reason why.

"It's a great event that gives back to the community, and the brewery is always looking for ways to give back as well, it's a great partnership for a good cause, so don't let anyone say beer and distance running don't go well together," said Baum. "I'm just happy the weather is on our side this year, a little damp, but in the low sixties. Last year, it was so cold that our beer was actually freezing in the tap lines."

The runners were a colorful bunch, with participants including not only runners, but groups jogging in formal wear or pajamas, families out walking with their children, and more than 50 dogs, ranging from a pair of Rottweilers to a three-month-old Border Collie puppy.

In the end though, Williamsburg native Edward Rietscha finished first overall, crossing the finish line at 18:25. Rietscha is a physical education teacher at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton. Victory or otherwise, he said there is no place he would rather kick off 2019 than at the Hair of the Dog 5K.

"I've been running for over 25 years, and I teach cross country and track, so I'm out here doing what I love," said Rietscha. "I volunteered at last year's event, I was happy to come back to run this year, and I'm even happier to win it."

As for his plans for celebrating his first place finish?

"I just bought a new house in town, I was up until midnight moving and unpacking boxes," said Rietscha. "After this winds down, I'm looking forward to heading home and finishing the job."

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