Sunday, February 28, 2010

Charlotte runners dominate Columbia half

It was a good news-bad news kind of day for some of our area's top runners at this past weekend's inaugural Columbia Half Marathon.

The bad news is pretty bad: A police officer accidentally led Charlotte's Matt Jaskot (a 1:16 half-marathoner), Cornelius' Adam Mayes (a 1:24 half-marathoner) and eight other runners in the wrong direction. All 10 of them were toward the front of the pack at the time; all 10 of them did not finish.

The good news, though, is pretty good: Aaron Linz, 36, and Boriana Bakaltcheva, 24, gave Charlotte a sweep of the men's and women's overall titles, cruising to easy victories in their respective races. Linz's 1:16:41 was the top time by more than 12 minutes; Bakaltcheva beat her closest female competitor by more than four. In all, 535 runners completed Saturday's Columbia Half Marathon.

Linz, who led the race from start to finish, had mixed feelings about the experience.

"I planned the race and made the trip looking for some regional competition," Linz said Sunday, "but I never got pushed. While it is always a great feeling to break a tape -- they had an actual finish tape to break, which was cool -- for those that know me, I thrive on big crowds and lots of competition.

"[But] wins are awesome, so I am proud of that."

In addition to not having other runners pushing him, Linz said maintaining a good pace was challenging because he wasn't wearing a GPS watch and much of the course lacked mile markers. "So ... I was going on feel," he said.

Added Linz: "The large margin was a bit false since [runners] 2 through 10 took wrong turns, including Matt and Adam, who were in third and fourth. I had the luxury of a police car escort but without that, the course had way, way too many turns and not enough volunteers to help direct runners. ... There were several turns where it was unclear to me until the cop car was literally halfway through the intersection as to whether we were going left or right."

Bakaltcheva agreed that the course was tricky, but fortunately for her was further back and did not get caught up in the pack that was led astray. She ended up cranking out a PR by a whopping eight minutes (her last -- and only other -- half-marathon was two years ago).

On Sunday, she shared a brief recap of her race via e-mail:

"I had a general idea that I'd be able to run [a 7-minute pace]. The first mile went out on a slight downhill, and to my surprise there was only one female ahead of me. First mile in 6:36 -- yikes! Too fast. I was afraid that the 6:36 might kill me later, but tried to just focus on the next mile. No need to push and pass her just yet.

"I slowed down to the low 7:00s and settled into a comfortable rhythm. Finally around Mile 4, I [overtook] her. For awhile, she kept passing me and falling back and passing me again. I could tell she was getting very tired, and I left her behind somewhere around Mile 5. A long, gradual uphill for Mile 7 came up as we crossed the river. This was the loneliest part of the course and where I hit my slowest splits -- two miles at 7:07 each. I passed a guy around Mile 8, and from then on was entirely alone.

"At this point, I knew I was very comfortably in the lead for the women. In a way, I felt like I could just relax because of that. ... The next mile marker after 8 that I saw was 11, and I was shocked to see that I ran the three-mile stretch in 20:43, which is 6:54s. Wow – two miles to go and I felt just as good as I had most of the race. With a half-mile to go, Aaron, Adam and Matt jumped in and ran the last half-mile with me, keeping up encouraging words, while I pushed hard up the final hill, then back down to the finish.

"It’s quite rare for me to get a win in a race, so I enjoyed the loud cheers [when I was announced as] the 'first woman' very much!"

Linz, Bakaltcheva, Jaskot and Mayes all are members of the Charlotte Running Club.


Anonymous said...

What does this have to do with Charlotte?

Anonymous said...

Hmm - let's see - Charlotte Runners Club members, Charlotte residents. If you're not interested in it, A, why read it, and B, why comment on it?

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Aaron and Boriana. They both looked strong.

Anonymous said...

Are there ever big crowds for amateur road races?

Aaron Linz said...

Someone asked if there are big crowds for amateur road races. Good question and I would say yes. I guess the harder question to define is what is an amateur race vs. ?? "Elite/professional" often run the exact same races (start together) as amateurs so it is hard to distinguish. Maybe prize money but Marine Corps marathon and Army 10 miler have no prize money and they have thousands of runners and huge supportive crowds. Flying Pig marathon and all the Rock N Roll events are known for their great band/volunteer/crowd support. Some are just curious folks and most are families and friends that come out to cheer. I always enjoy the Elizabeth 8k as the folks in that neighborhood come out of their houses with coffee in hand and cheer you on as you fly by their homes. As a race gets some buzz over the years, it sometimes becomes something that folks are just curious to see. Road races will never compete with our big american sports but it is nice to see some more interest throughout the US in running. I don't think any of us entered the sport for recognition and crowds as if we did, we made a mistake because that is football, basketball, baseball, etc are where it is at if you want dollars and attention. But...I know I love and appreciate any cheers and words of encouragement while I am at a race.