By Dickson Mercer

If Bethany Sachtleben tries out for cross country at George Mason University this fall, she will lack the high school running experiences other rising freshman will surely have.  On the other hand, Sachtleben, 20, who won this morning’s second annual Let Freedom Run 5K in Fairfax, VA in 18:26, has already run a marathon, which is uncommon for a runner her age.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Photos [/button-red]Sachtleben, by the way, didn’t just finish a marathon. In March, at the inaugural SunTrust Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon, the tennis and soccer player from Manassas, VA was 2nd in 3:08:43. (Sachtleben was home-schooled, she said, and starting running “casually” a few years ago.)

As for this Independence Day 5K, Sachtleben, who entered the race with a goal of breaking 20 minutes, said, “I think it was a lot more exhausting than the marathon because you just have to be all out the entire time. And it was nerve-wracking because I wanted to win, and there’s such a short time.

She won by more than a minute, and her time of 18:26 – on a sunny and humid morning – was well under her goal.

Meghan Blackstone, 18, of Bristow, VA (shown right) was 2nd in 19:27. Kristi Markowicz, 42, of Arlington, VA took third overall and the master’s title in 19:36.

In the men’s race, Philippe Rolly, 39, of McLean, VA set the pace through the opening mile in around 5:10. Around halfway, though, Rolly was caught by last year’s winner, Jordan McDougal, who cruised to repeat victory in 16:06. Rolly held on for 2nd in 16:42.

Heading into the race, Rolly had hoped to run about a minute faster, he said, but the heat and rolling course proved to be too much.

Rolly, meanwhile, has bests of 2:19 in the marathon and 29:40 for 10K, and for years ranked among this region’s best. In his mid-30s, with three children and a busy job, he lost interest, he said. As of late, though, Rolly, native to France, has been on something of a comeback. At the beginning of this year, he returned to training with a simple goal: to return to solid form before Aug. 24, when he will officially become a master.

As for McDougal, it was amazing he was racing at all. On Saturday, the 25-year-old national 50K champion and North Face-sponsored ultra runner was in Ecuador for a 50K race in which he got lost, got sick, and failed to finish.

This morning, he came out to support the racing team he has helped to organized for The Running Store in Gainesville, VA, he said. As it happened, three of his teammates were not far behind 3rd place finisher Eric Makovsky, 39, of Washington, D.C., who ran 17:18. Rob Bell, Keith Freeburn, and Joe Blackstone – all from Gainesville – were 4th through 6th, respectively.

“I was coming out to run with them today,” McDougal said. “If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been out there.”

The Let Freedom Run 5K is staged on a loop course that starts and finishes at Fairfax Corner Shopping Center.  And as runners warmed up this morning in the parking lots or on a coned-off stretch of the course, it seemed for a time that they might at least benefit from overcast skies and a bit of a breeze.  About 15 minutes before the 9 a.m. start, though, out came the sun, and with it the expected heat.

It hardly deterred “Team Scotland,” a family team of six that featured Bob Johnson, 51, of Oakton, VA, his wife Carrol Anderson, 53, and Carrol’s sister, Gillian Anderson, 49, visiting from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Johnson noted that their Oakton home lost power for two days after Saturday’s storm. “But it didn’t keep us from training on Sunday,” he said.

Andrew and Martina Crichton of Woodbridge, VA turned Let Freedom Run 5K into a family outing as well. Their youngest daughter, Alex, 1, was along for the run in a jogging stroller. Their older daughter, Melissa, 4, ran the Kid’s Dash, which started an hour after the 5K.

The family’s jogging stroller has gone up to a half marathon so far, Crichton said, who added that he hopes bringing his children to road races will set a positive example of healthy living.

Incidentally, the Let Freedom Run 5K’s course also hosts the Halloween-themed Goblin Gallop, in which many participants race wearing costumes. For Let Freedom Run, the costumes stay at home, but participants in this young race have nonetheless started a tradition of celebrating Fourth of July by, for example, sporting the red, white and blue race t-shirt, carrying small flags, or wearing Uncle Sam top hats.

Debbie Whitfield, 39, of Potomac Falls, VA ran the race with her son, Tyler, 7. Tyler’s older brother ran as well, she said.

“My husband and I will run our races” – including marathons – “on our own,” she said. “Then we like to come and run with [our sons].”

Whitfield’s parents were there to cheer them on.

“So it’s a big family outing,” she said. “We’ll probably get together later and have a picnic, watch the fireworks. This is a great kickoff to Independence Day.”


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