By Brenda Barrera
Virginia Beach, VA
February 11, 2012
For the Washington Running Report

To say love was in the air was no exaggeration for Saturday’s Virginia is for Lovers 14K, an unusual race distance and one of the popular J&A Racing events held in Virginia Beach, VA. It was a morning filled with a lot of red attire, pink hearts with glitter, and wedding vows were exchanged on the race course at, where else, Lovers’ Lane.

It came as no surprise to see top locals and last year’s champions defend their titles. Ryan Carroll, 29, from Portsmouth led from start to win in 46:22 and Virginia Beach’s Renee High, 30, handily won in 52:00. While both ran slower times than last year, each was just coming off January breakout performances where Carroll notched a 1:08:36 PR at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon and High won the Walt Disney Marathon in 2:48:35.

“The conditions were perfect today,” said Carroll, noting the forecast had called for rainy conditions but thankfully it remained dry. He is coached by race director Jerry Frostick and used the race as a training run in preparation for the upcoming Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon in March.

Jesse Contario, 28, from Arlington, VA (left) ran most of the race by himself. The William & Mary alumni finished about a minute back in 47:44, good enough for second place. Victor Flemming, 32, from Smithfield, VA took third in 48:50.

Steve Speirs, 45, from Virginia Beach handily won the masters competition in 49:48, besting Greg Cauller, 52, from York, PA, who ran 51:50.

In the women’s competition, High (below) ran unchallenged but the next few places were up for grabs as Norfolk’s Courtney Chapman, 28, with her braided ponytail flying back and forth and a huge grin on her face, slowly picked off the leaders to claim second place in 53:33. Mollie Turner, 31, from Chesapeake, VA crossed the finish line nine seconds later in 53:42.

Gina McGee’s lucky number was five. The talented 47-year-old masters division runner from Virginia Beach ran 55:55 and placed fifth overall among the women. Norfolk’s Dolores Ware, 41, took the next masters place in 56:14.

Race Notes

* David Ullrich, of Galesville, MD and Nina Stickles from Hampton, VA made a “planned” detour near mile 4 in Lover’s Lane and got hitched. They stopped for the ceremony and then continued the race together, crossing the finish line in 1:47:31; faster than a 12:30 pace if you are calculating.

* Colonel Mark Cooter, 48, from nearby Langley Air Force base finished in 1:05:10 and had a special note on his race bib for his wife, Angelina: “I ‘heart’ you! Hurry Home!” Well, we know his wife, Major Angelina Maguinness, knows how to hurry, she is a fast runner and won the companion race in Kabul, Afghanistan.

* Chad Simpson (below) got a lot of “love” along the course. It is understandable as he ran in an Elvis outfit and was carrying a guitar. He cruised across the finish line in 1:05:58 and, when asked what was on his iPod play list, rattled off several Elvis tunes and shared his discovery of a new Elvis song he just recently heard, Guitar Man.

* Sporting matching Valentine’s Day-themed gauze skirts was a trio of international runners: Laila Tolderlund from Denmark was joined by Fenella McAlister from Scotland, and Geirhild Snilda Engen from Norway. All three live in Virginia Beach and are part of the NATO family.

* The relay division offered an opportunity for North Bethesda’s Janine Garner and her daughter Gabi to compete as Team Garner. Their finish time was 1:19:12 and just ahead of them, Ron Garner completed the course in 1:13:53.

* At the post-race party, Bryan Deal, 34, from Mechanicsville, VA, who ran 57:43, joined ProK racing teammate Tyler Van Rensselaer, 35, who recently moved to Pisgah Forest, NC and finished in 53:22. “We’re doing all of the J&A race series,” said Deal. “We’re blown away by all of the schwag.”

In all, 2,981 runners finished the Virginia is for Lovers 14K, an increase from 2011, and more than 300 participants ran the 1.4 mile race, benefitting LIVESTRONG, the official race charity.

Editor’s Note: More race coverage will be in the upcoming March/April issue of Washington Running Report: The Runner’s Source for DC, MD, & VA.


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