Matt Collins stopped running and stood by the finish line. He waited for Adria Botifoll (1:22:33) to cross and cover himself with glory by taking top honors. Then he waited for Nicholas Dibenedetto (1:22:58) to come in second. Then he stepped across to take third (1:22:59).
Collins, it seems, was trailing Botifoll and Dibenedetto and knew he couldn’t catch them. Until they missed some flags and took a wrong turn. He called them back and kept running, all the while knowing that on this particular day he was not the fleetest through the woods. So he waited for them to come in and take what he believed was their rightful place on the podium. No one would have thought anything less of him had he taken gold, but that wasn’t what his heart told him. (Dibenedetto describes the incident on the race reviews page.)
Botifoll, who took 4th place overall last year and first in his age group, looks reluctant to take the honor as he walks across the line, a tribute to his own sportsmanship. In the final photograph to the right, I see two people reluctant to win. Could honor and glory be any better for a footrace?
Our winner took home a prize in addition to the engraved tankard and swag: All of our champions come back as my guest for as long as I remain Race Director. And Collins, for his uncompromising good sportsmanship, is also invited back as my guest for as long as I remain RD.
But don’t think for a minute that these were the only three to cover themselves in glory.
Deanna Culbreath (1:35:35) defended her champion’s crown by winning for the second year in a row. That makes her the first runner, male or female, to repeat. She reigns as queen of the race. Right behind her was our 2011 champ, Caroline Renkin (1:35:51) with Roos Karssemeijer (1:37:42) taking third.
There was much more glory to go around for the 638 finishers on this overly humid day that sapped the strength of so many.
There was Gerry Sullivan (champ, ’08), Matt “Wrong Way” Patrick (2nd in ’09) and Jason Kelly (1:34 in ’12) who each ran a warm up lap of the course before the race, leaving with headlamps before sunrise. Sullivan even took 3rd in his age group, which was unsurprising since he did that warm-up lap trick in 2011 and took 2nd overall.
And then there was the youth on display: Drew Thompson of Trumbull, CT, at age 13 scampered the 13.1 rocky and rooty miles to a 1:35:45 to finish 23rd overall in the men’s division. Jacob Gruza of New Rochelle, age 14, came home in 1:54:01, with 15-year-old schoolmate Jacob Shteingart bringing it to the finish in 2:04. And there was Sho Scott, running with his dad, becoming the youngest athlete ever to finish Paine to Pain, at a mere 12 years of age.
Glory all around, but it wasn’t just for the elites and the kids.
Dozens and dozens of runners told us on their entry blanks that this was the first time they were attempting a half marathon. Or their first trail race. Or their first race of any kind. Each of them covered in glory as they sprinted or struggled or suffered to get back to New Rochelle and that finish line banner. So many others pushed themselves to improve personal goals of a wide-ranging nature, or to raise money for charities.
And we had, for the first time, runners in costume, with Nina Steinberg and Karen Murray, both P2P volunteers, running in Native American garb (or a close facsimile thereof).Why did they do that? Because, as Cyndi Lauper famously sang, sometimes girls just want to have fun.
And the volunteers, all 200+ of them, helping to organize, get cars to parking lots, flagging trails, staking out intersections, monitoring runners, providing water, watching in the woods, hauling supplies, registering runners, setting up, breaking down, trying to spray a wasps’ nest mid-race, assisting sponsors, cleaning up, maintaining the website, managing registration and waves — all sacrificing for the sheer joy of putting on a community event as they suffer through countless emails.
But now I must choose a Race Director’s Prize. These are the rules: I make them up as I go along. Just as I did for Collins and the sportsmanship award that I gave him on the spot.
The RD Prize was created this way on a whim when Jillian Perrius turned a cartwheel down the home stretch in 2010 and was awarded a free ticket to 2011. In 2011 Kristin Iversen Koch flashed me a big smile over bloody knees when I saw her in the finish area, and she got a free ticket to 2012. In 2012, it went to Todd Esposito who flew in from Ukraine for this race.
And this year? It goes to Erica Weisberg, running out of wave 4, who added at least 15 minutes to her time when she stopped to assist an injured runner. (The injured runner will be fine, and has already told me she wants to come back next year to finish her race.)
Erica sacrificed her own race for another in need. She comes back next year, therefore, as our guest. When I told her that by phone, she thought it was silly, as she was just doing what came naturally to her.