It wasn’t Metro accessible, there weren’t bands every mile and the race might not have had the panache of a national series, but sure enough, a marathon went off Saturday morning in Northern Virginia.
The inaugural Runner’s Marathon of Reston and accompanying half marathon took charge of the streets and trails in a race that billed itself as being “designed by runners, for runners.”
Two sisters, Devin and Alex Nehill, had hatched a plan over Thanksgiving to run their first marathon together. They chose Reston because of the proximity to their hometown and ease of pre and post-race logistics. At the time, they had no goals other than to finish.
As Devin, 17, a senior at Bishop O’Connell, entered the home stretch around the South Lakes High School track, passing half marathoners still finishing, tears were streaming down her face. She took the female win and finished in an impressive 3:09:49, amidst cheers from her entire lacrosse team.
Wearing a shirt that said “The faster you run. The faster you are done,” she had a hard time putting into words how she felt as tears still streamed down her face from the shock and joy of the win.
Though Devin is an amazing runner, lacrosse is her best sport. She was a first-team WCAC and Division I all-state lacrosse player and an honorable mention All-American, as chosen by U.S. Lacrosse, she will be attending Division I Drexel University to lacrosse.
While Devil was roaring down the home stretch, her sister Alex, 19 and a student at Virginia Tech, was still on course. Winning your first marathon is nothing short of amazing. Devin however didn’t bask in her accomplishment, she quickly ran back on course to cheer on her sister.
Local masters runner DeeDee Loughran, 54, took 2nd in 3:15:14. Alex Nihill rounded out the top three females with a time of 3:43:21.
On the men’s side of the marathon, 20-year-old Lee Kaufman clinched the win with a 2:52. Second place in 2:59, was 48-year-old Ian Clements. Clements, a veteran of 14 marathons, described the course as “extremely challenging.” He knew it was hilly but felt it was much harder than expected. His goal was to run around a 2:57 but early in the race knew that was not going to be possible on this course.
“There are trails and there are “trails,” he said, “The C & O Canal is flat and straight. The W & OD is straight and relatively flat. The trails in Reston aren’t straight, and they aren’t flat. It really takes a lot out of you as a runner.”
He had planned to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon but when a work tripped forced his to make other plans, the Alexandria resident said the Reston race was a no-brainer.
The half marathoners took off 30 minutes after the start marathon, and ran the same loop the marathoners did twice. Nate Spong, of Reston, took the win on the men’s side with a time of 1:24:03. Close behind him was Mike Honicker of Sterling, in 1:24: 55. Honicker and Spong are both prepping for triathlon seasons. Both felt the race logistics wise was well run, but did note that there were a lot of false flats and the course was extremely hilly.
Spong sung praises of the new race. “Well marked, the volunteers were awesome, Reston really needed a good half marathon and full marathon and Reston Runner’s delivered on that.”
On the women’s side, Kristen Herring took first in 1:32:08. Reston resident Sharon Adams, who eight days ago became the mother of an adopted 8-year-old from Haiti, took second with a time of 1:35:21. Adams said the race was very special for her. Having her third child there cheering her, screaming “go mommy go” was the icing on the cake to a fun race morning in her home town. Robin Witlin rounded out the top three women with a time of 1:35:48, finishing on her former high school track.
The Reston Runners decided last year to start a half marathon and marathon in Reston, to complement its variety of road races and triathlons. Dennis Hayes, Reston Runners club president and co-race director of the race, boasted of the tremendous community support the race not only had in the planning stages but also on race day. “Reston has needed a full marathon and a half marathon for a number of years and we are excited to make this a reality today.”
Hayes and his team of six co-race directors put together the race with runners in mind. “We wanted a race where we took the good parts of races we have run and improved upon issues we have encountered at other larger marathons.” Free pasta dinner the night before, morning packet pick up, and a buffet of post-race food that included pizza, buffalo wings, corn bread, oranges, bagels muffins and more, were a few of the perks of this low key long distance race.
The club chose the March date, so as not to compete with other large fall marathons, and to ensure relatively cool weather for participants.
Volunteers were plentiful at the race, making everything run smooth for participants. Mary Mullaney of Reston believes as a runner and triathlete it’s important to give back. “Volunteers make these races happen, and I participate in many throughout the year, so I also volunteer my time on the ones I’m not racing.” Aprille Sherman of Sterling, a member of Reston Runners, was really excited to be volunteering. The spirit here today is infectious; it makes you want to sign up to run another race. Sherman who is training for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler also felt that it’s important for runners to not just participate but to also give back to the sport they love.
Post-race, runner’s enjoyed the plentiful food in the South Lakes Cafeteria, staying warm while sharing their stories of what may become a favorite race of many.
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