Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame inductees stretch careers late into life

Special to the Gazette

Runners from Williamsburg, Yorktown and Newport News were the three additional inductees into the 2017 class of the Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame, announced the last two Saturdays of January, first at the Peninsula Track Club awards banquet at the Edgehill Association Clubhouse in Yorktown on Jan. 20, then at the Colonial Road Runners awards banquet on Jan. 27 at the Windsor Forest Clubhouse in Williamsburg. This is the 12th inductee class into the Hall of Fame, coordinated jointly by the PTC and the CRR.

The previous 11 Hall of Fame classes were Joan Coven, the late Michael Mann and John Piggott in 2006; Rick Platt, Valerie Plyler and the late Tom Ray in 2007; Lew Faxon, Rob Hinkle and Andrew Polansky in 2008; Barbara Biasi, Ed Richards and Robert S. White in 2009; Stephen Chantry, Jim Goggin and John Hort in 2010; the late Joe Harney, Larry Turner and Lori Eady Melle in 2011; Bruce Davis, Rhonda Venable and Jennifer Quarles in 2012; Mercedes Castillo-D’Amico, Ed Moran and Dick Pierce in 2013; George Fenigsohn, Chris Papile and Langston Shelton in 2014; Randy Hawthorne and Mark Tompkins in 2015 and Dale Abrahamson, Ben Dyer and Rick Samaha in 2016.

This year’s inductees, Greg Dawson of Williamsburg, Pamela Lovett of Yorktown and George Nelsen of Newport News, all served in the military and had their greatest road racing accomplishments later in life, after age 40.

Dawson was a standout high school runner in Spokane, Wash., with a half-mile best of 2:01, a mile best of 4:24 and a two-mile best of 9:44 (and inducted into his University High School Distance Running Hall of Fame), but he did not run while he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, nor for the next 20 years while pursuing his Navy career. He finally retired from military service last March, after 30 years in the Navy.

In March 2008, at age 42, he ran his first Colonial Road Runners race, a modest 19:34 at the Jamestown High School Swamp Run 5K, good for second place in the men’s 40-44 age group. By that fall, his 5K time was down to 17:55 at the William and Mary Homecoming Run 5K, and he hasn’t stopped since, scoring more CRR Grand Prix points in the past decade than any other runner, and winning Grand Prix awards every year. He was first place for the men’s 40-49 age group in 2008, and second place in 2009, won the men’s overall Grand Prix title in 2012, was runner-up in 2010, ’15, ’16 and ’17, was third overall in 2011 and ’13, and was first Masters (ages 40+) in 2014. In addition, he was third overall in the 2016 and ’17 Hampton Roads Super Grand Prix.

All of Dawson’s lifetime PRs came at age 45 and 46, including a 16:57 at the 2010 Sentara Sleighbell 5K, a 28:28 at the 2011 Icelandic Seafood 8K, a 35:48 at the 2012 Pike’s Peak (MD) 10K, a 59:47 at the 2010 Yorktown Battlefield 10-Miler, his first road race win, a 1:21:21 at the 2011 Mulberry Island Half Marathon, and a 2:52:54 at the 2011 Ridge to Bridge Marathon. He has routinely age graded over the national-class level of 80 percent, including a lifetime-best age grade of 84.41 percent at last October’s Governor’s Land 5K, with a 17:45 at age 52.

For the Colonial Road Runners, he has been club first vice president for a number of years, on the board of directors prior to that, the team coordinator for USATF national road and cross country championships for a decade, is in his fourth year as race director of the Powhatan Creek Trail 5K, a fundraiser for the CRR team travel fund, coordinated the CRR Annual Awards Banquet, along with his wife Theresa, from 2015 through ’17, and has led the CRR interval workouts for years. In training, he has run every day this decade, a streak now in its ninth year, and averaging 7.47 miles per day during that time.

Pamela Lovett joined the United States Army in 1981, and served active duty for 23 years until her retirement in June 2004, at which time she took up running seriously, after moving from Heidelberg, Germany to Virginia. Her 15-year running career has a remarkable series of races at the highest age-graded levels, including an 18:23 for 5K at age 45, and an 18:59 at age 52. For 8K she ran 31:38 at age 45 and 32:05 at age 53. For the 10K it was a 40:34 at age 51. At 10 miles she ran a 1:07:58 at the 2010 Army Ten at age 48, and had a 1:10:29 at age 54 in 2017. For the half marathon she ran a 1:32:25 at age 46 and a 1:33:02 at age 51. Her only marathon was a 3:40:48 at age 54 at the 2016 Kiawah Island Marathon. On an age graded basis, with 80 percent considered national class, and 90 percent considered world class, Lovett has a best of 90.55 percent for her 18:59 5K at age 52, along with an 89.28 percent for her 19:30 5K at age 53 and an 88.4 percent for her 18:44 5K at age 49. Her 32:05 8K at age 53 age graded 88.3 percent. She has five CRR age group records, two PTC age group records, and was first female overall last March at the Newport News One City 8K, at age 54. From 2004 through ’17, she was first female overall in 44 5K races.

One of her running highlights was in 2012 when she was first place overall in the Tri-Cities Road Runners Club Championship 7 Miler while her husband Jack was first overall for the men, saying Jack is “my fiercest and one of my most loyal supporters.” They have a daughter Kiersten, who was just two years old back in 2003 when the couple moved to Hampton Roads.

George Nelsen, now president of the Peninsula Track Club, after nine years of being club vice president, is considered the ultramarathoning “guru” of the Peninsula. He has done more to popularize racing over the 26-mile marathon distance than anyone else, and has been the race director of the popular Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer for the past 14 years, a race at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton that sells out every year, and has raised over $150,000 for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. He was also the Leukemia Team in Training Coach in 2000.

Nelsen has modest road racing PRs at the shorter distances, including a 19:39 at the 1999 Mulberry Island 5K, a 32:25 at the 1998 Neptune 8K, a 40:02 at a Washington, DC 10K in 1990, a 1:07:30 at the 1997 Army Ten Miler, and a 1:32:26 at the 1999 Pomoco Half Marathon. But it is at the longest distances that he excels, starting with a 3:25:52 at the 1987 Marine Corps Marathon. His ultramarathon bests include a 4:42:06 at the 2003 Seashore 50K, a 9:37:28 at the 2003 JFK 50 Miler, a 14:36:16 at the 2014 Graveyard 100K, a 27:37:58 at the 2006 Old Dominion 100 Miler, 95.5 miles at a 2011 24-Hour Run, 125 miles at a 2013 48-Hour Run, and 146.7 miles at a 2008 72-Hour Run.

For the Peninsula Track Club Grand Prix, he has placed four times (3rd in 2005, sixth in 2011, 8th in 2014 and 3rd in 2015), he won the third-place age group award for men 60-69 in the Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix in 2016, and was first place for men 60-64 at the 2017 Hampton Roads Super Grand Prix. He has run 29 marathons and 65 ultramarathons, including five multi-day events. He was captain of the Fort Monroe Army 10 Miler team from 1997-2000.

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