By James Moreland
Rockville, MD
November 6, 2011
For the Washington Running Report

The Rockville 10K big claim to fame is that it is the longest running event in Montgomery County. As noted by Maryland State Senator Jennie Forehand, the event started as a ten mile race. For many years the race was run from Montgomery College as only a 10K. After racing in the local neighborhoods until 1991, the race raced south on the Pike to the Rockville Town Center, which was still in an earlier iteration.  In 1995, the race added a 5K that circled the campus, while the 10K stayed on a similar path, though there were minor variations. That year the random prize was a week vacation and it was hoped that would bring the numbers up. The race had usually stayed around 500 finishers in good weather or bad.

By the late 90s the race moved to Piccard Drive near today’s 2 mile mark in the 10K. King Farm was still really just a farm. The course meandered back and forth between Gude Drive and Gaither Road. Then King Farm was completed and the event raced back and forth through the new community. The course has changed a number of times for both the 5K and the 10K. Mercifully, the 5K starts after the 10K now and takes a different route so there is no longer as much confusion as runners get to the finish line.

The finish corral has its own balloon arch.

Now the race began to grow and in 2008 finally cracked 1,000 finishers in the combined events. The next year the race fell back to below 800 finishers before rebounding last year to a record 1206. In 2011, the weather was racing perfect at 40 degrees with a bright sun and no wind and the event cracked 1,000 finishers for the third time.

Parking became a tougher commodity this year. Runners who forgot to set their watch had an extra hour to secure the prime spots. The start/finish and the balloon arch by the awards stand started to fill with runners later but hundreds of runners gathered together in the back of the Safeway parking lot, effectively blockading the road. The race started promptly at 8:30 a.m. and whipped around the corner onto King Farm Boulevard. Jack rabbit Dee Nelson, 68, was among the early leaders. After more than 1400 races she still enjoys the thrill of starting the race. She would easily win her age group.

For the men, even before the next turn onto Gaither Road the top finishers were being decided. The gentle climb to Shady Grove is about ¾ mile. Andre Orr and Daniel Miranda came bolting back down the hill side by side as if it were the final mile. Thirty meters behind them Karsten Brown was loping along saving effort for the later push in the race. The race is a series of long up and down slopes, the stiffest being on Gude Drive.  Robin Lerner berated the course with, “Why is the fourth mile always the hilliest?” on the final steps of the climb the brought runners to Rockville Pike. We know Lerner changed her clock because she did her warm-up at the Anything is Possible 5K in Bethesda earlier that morning at 1:50 a.m. That syndicated event promotes the cutesy idea of finishing before you began, thanks to the change back to standard time.

Meanwhile, Brown was already more than halfway back down the hill and had already changed to a stiffer arm swing and a more frenzied pace. He had bolted away into the lead and he wanted to have some space by the time he crested the final hill at the corner of Piccard and Redland. Then it would be a final half way victory parade. Brown, who races about 100 races and close to a 1,000 race miles a year, had just raced his fastest 5 miler the day before finishing third overall at the Down’s Park race in Pasadena, MD in 27:04. (That is slighter faster than his PR Rockville Rotary 8K in 26:55 this summer). Yesterday the top two finishers were out of his league. Today he paced himself to his first sub 34:00 10K, winning it all in 33:26.

Place four through six were all top masters runners. Dave Haaga, 50, was holding tight to Mark Neff, 49, at 4 miles with Jean Christophe Arcaz, 50, looking unhappy that he could not quite join the party.  Neff ran a very credible 35:38 to take the fourth spot by seven seconds with Haaga rounding out the top five.  Arcaz earned the masters title in 36:18. The oldest racer Jack McMahon, 80, still looks good, finishing in 59:10.

For the woman, homegrown talent Julie Sapper ran away with the race from the very beginning with an excellent 41:16. There was some confusion later as a man had mistakenly worn a tag assigned to a woman but that was fixed by the time awards were handed out. As with the men, top masters runners ran well with four of the top six being masters. Liliana Baron, 53, seemed to relish the hills bounding along to the runner-up spot in 44:58. Leah Birdwell, 17, finishing eight seconds ahead of Shelli Beard, 42 in 45:42 though both had identical net time. Gun times decide the top five while net times decide the age groups.

When they finish revising the results Phyllis Sevik, 47, will move up to fifth overall from top masters and Jen Norris, 40, will become the masters award winner. Alice Franks, 63, (in photo) joined Nelson as shoe-ins in the sixties. Barbara Scoggins may have had the best race at age 59 with a very nice 47:04.  Eighty-year-old Yvonne Aasen won the senior division.

The 5K is the younger brother for the event and though it is usually just as large, it does not draw as much recognition. Brown, who also races in Westminster, would recognize the race winner Greg Jubb, 21, who ran a nifty 15:58, which may be near Brown’s next 5K goal of breaking 16:00. Bennett Stackhouse, 27 was the runner-up in 16:26. Two Gaithersburg residents, Paul Jacobson, 48, and Dan Lawson, 56 battled for top masters honors. Jacobson’s eight-year difference was just enough to prevail by three seconds in 18:12.

Robin Stanley, 30, of Derwood, MD made it look easy winning in 20:07 with Teah Devan, 38, two minutes behind her. MCRRC president since 2009 Jean Arthur, 48, continues to astound this year with a third overall finish in 23:42.

After the race we met with racing legend Lou Shapiro, a sub 42:00 10K racer at age 69. This year he injured his hip and claims maybe by spring he will be able to run a 12 minute mile. Do not count out a much better comeback.

The 10K portion of the race is also one of the races in the Maryland RRCA series where running clubs from across the state compete.


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