Six Williamsburg runners among the top 13 men, a rare multiple race winner and a rare age-group record for the women highlighted Sunday’s 39th annual Sentara Colonial Half Marathon, held under unusually warm conditions.
Will Christian, 34, of Norfolk joined a select group of runners as a multiple winner of the half marathon. He won in 2016 in 1:11:46 (the slowest winning time ever) under warm conditions, sunny and a high of 66 degrees, then won again this year under even hotter conditions (a high of 75, although under overcast skies, and low humidity), but a faster time, 1:10:27. The only other multiple men’s winners have been Canadian Gordon Christie in 1987 and ’88, and three-time winner Steve Taylor of Blacksburg in 1991 (the all-time record of 1:04:39), ’93 and ’96.
Christian used the Colonial as a tuneup for this Sunday’s Newport News One City Marathon. He has PRs of 1:05:10 for the half marathon (Grandma’s in 2011) and 2:19:13 for the marathon (Grandma’s in 2014), both near misses for the Olympic Trials Marathon.
For the women, the only multiple winners have been Inge Schuurmans of Boulder, Colorado, in 1987 and ‘94 (an all-time record of 1:16:08 on the old Colonial Parkway course) and four-time winner Anna Pichrtova of Waynesboro in 2002 (the all-time record of 1:15:02 on the current Carter’s Grove course), ’03, ’04 and ’08.
The top three men and women overall won a total of $2,000 in prize money. Adam Otstot, 35, of Williamsburg, who also placed second to Christian in 2016 (in 1:12:55), was runner-up this year in 1:15:01, coming off limited training due to a broken rib last fall. They were together for about 2 ½ miles before Christian steadily pulled away.
Former William and Mary student, former Williamsburg resident, and three-time defending-champion Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix winner Roger Hopper, 27, of Norfolk (there while his wife Julie is doing her residency) has run four half marathons, with two of the three previous ones at Colonial (a 1:24:21 in 2014 and a 1:20:43 in 2016). His previous half marathon PR was a 1:19:31 at Mulberry Island last September, so he had a huge PR (1:16:28) for his third-place overall, despite the heat and the hills.
Mark Tompkins, 42, of Williamsburg (and the Jamestown High track coach) was sixth overall (special award bags with various goodies went to the top ten men and women overall), but first Masters (ages 40-and-over) in a time of 1:21:27. His lifetime best is a 1:12:40 from the Crawlin’ Crab Half and his Masters best is a 1:19:57 at the Parkersburg (West Virginia) Half last August. Close behind Tompkins was new Williamsburg resident Jason Bridge, 34, a triathlete coached by Otstot, who PR’d with a 1:21:49.
Greg Dawson, 52, of Williamsburg was 10th overall for the men, and second Masters, in 1:26:39. He won the Masters title last year in 1:27:12. Close behind him was Logan St. John, 23, of Williamsburg in a breakthrough 1:26:56. Other top local men were John Piggott, 52, of Williamsburg (1:28:15, 4th Masters), Ryan Doupe, 31, of Newport News (1:29:26), Jason Miller, 40, of Williamsburg (1:31:47), Paul Pelletier, 52, of Williamsburg (1:32:44) and Carter Ficklen, 43, of Yortkown (1:33:16), all within the top 25 overall men.
Jamestown High assistant coach Laura Shannon was the rare age-group record breaker, her sixth-place overall for the women (and second Masters) time of 1:36:35 smashed the previous women’s 55-59 record of 1:40:12 by Sharon Giese from 1999. Also the race director of the upcoming Jamestown High School Swamp Run 5K (set for Saturday, March 10), Shannon is training for the Boston Marathon in her native Massachusetts (she totaled 20 miles for the day with warmup and cooldown), and has always done well at Colonial. Her PR 1:29:59 came in 2010, when she was first Masters and second overall, and she ran 1:31:43 in 2014. In terms of goals she said, “Since the inevitable decline in my speed has become a stark reality,” she did covet the 1:40 age group record that she learned about the night before, had a goal of 1:37, and ran even better than that, her 1:36 improving on a 1:38 she ran to win the overall women’s title at a hilly Charlottesville half marathon last fall. “The record gave me extra incentive to go, go, go. I’m happy I could better it!”
The top three women were in a class by themselves, running between 1:23 and 1:26, with fourth place well back in 1:34:30 (Masters winner Aga Heller, 41, of Warrenton). The winner, Ann Mazur, 32, of Charlottesville, in 1:23:25, now has a first place at Colonial to go with her second in 2016 (1:26:34) and her third last year (1:26:13), improving by three minutes. A former English professor at UVA, she now teaches yoga and fitness classes at U.Va. full-time. The pre-race favorite, Mazur said, “I tried to go out at a hard but comfortable pace, and thought I was running alone until, to my tremendous surprise, I saw another woman directly right behind me around the 6 mile mark! I decided I had better really kick this thing into another gear, and actually felt terrific over the second half of the race, which has never happened before for me on this course. I am just super pumped about finally winning this one!”
Second overall for the women, in 1:24:52, was Alexandra Bender, also from Charlottesville (but who doesn’t know the race winner). Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, she won the Florida 3,200-meter 3A high school state title in 2007, then ran for the University of Florida, where her team won SEC conference cross country titles in 2009 and ’10, and she was an Academic All-American in 2008. In track she had PRs of 17:14 for 5,000 meters and 35:37 for 10,000 meters. After taking a bit of a break from competitive running during medical school and the first part of residency, her half marathon PR is a 1:23 from the Richmond Half last November.
Third overall, in 1:26:54, was Carolyn Mosley, 28 of Washington, DC, who did not compete in high school or college (Creighton University in Omaha) and instead played tennis, soccer and rugby, but took up running later in life due to the example of her two-time Boston Marathon running father. She’s done a 3:09:35 for the marathon, and Sunday’s Colonial was her half-marathon PR.
The only other Peninsula runner in the women’s top 10 was Jackie Hoffman, 25, of Newport News, eighth in 1:39:43. Trish Rice, 52, of Williamsburg won the third-place Masters award in 1:43:55 and was the only other local female under 1:45.
Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.