Maryland RRCA 10 Mile Challenge

By James Moreland
Columbia, MD
February 23, 2014

For more than thirty years the Maryland RRCA 10 Mile Challenge has been hosted by the Howard County Striders. The course is definitely a challenge with its many turns that suddenly reveal an elevation change dramatic enough to change your pace, mostly to a more conservative one. The course has changed a number of times over the years and though at times it would appear to be short, it ran as a longer course would. Now with GPS technology runners often feel that the course may in fact be long. Try to race as tight a turn as the measurement and remember elevation changes fool the GPS into thinking the distance is longer.

Runners at the finish line.

That said, the weather cooperated wondrously, no wind, no rain, and none of the winter cold (read snow) that did in fact stop the Post Office from its appointed rounds the week before. It was the first time in 24 years that I ran without one of the 22 pairs of gloves I earned for racing and no hat as well. The race was canceled in 1993 and 2003. The race used to be open to anyone but they have to cap the race at a thousand runners and it is designed to be a sort of reverse Super Bowl, the biggest and brightest as well as the most competitive race of the ten race series. It is the most significant race of the first two months of the year in the region.

There were fifteen other races during that time with more than 500 finishers and four with more than 800 runners including the Virginia is for Lovers 14K with 1712 finishers. The Challenge had 739 but it brought many of the top dogs from all over Maryland, while nearly all the others races are localized. The one exception might be the Colonial Half Marathon in Williamsburg.

Last year Brian Harvey returned home from Pittsburgh, PA to easily win in 51:01 and he helped the Striders win against the youngsters from the Fall Road Running Club. This year none of the top ten returned. There was an invasion from another youth driven racing team/club, the Georgetown Running Club.

GTRC surprised FRRC, ferociously putting seven of the runners in the top twelve but FRRC had the depth to eek out a one point victory for the Men’s team. Ten of the eleven GTRC members were men, so FRRC easily swept the Women and Coed teams as well.

Just past four miles Conrad Laskowski appeared to be the only one running with the two motorcycle police escort. By mile five, Lucas Meyer had closed the gap to fifty meters. The first half of the race is also hilly but it is the fresher, more downhill portion of the race. The toughest part is the end of the sixth mile as runners reenter the first loop of the modified figure eight on the steepest hill of the event.

The last flat section of the course comes in front of Athloton H.S., three quarters of the way done. Chris Farmer took and few hundred photos and has great shots of Meyer as he pulled up to Conrad Laskowski. He caught him just before mile eight and pulled away to win the event in 52:19. Laskowski had won it all in 2012 with 52:56. Conrad Orloff was the first of just five masters runners to break and hour in 57:53. There were a very solid forty runners faster than an hour.

In the women’s event in 2013, Melissa Majumdar won by less than a quarter second ahead of team mate Christine Ramsey in 1:03:17. Kelly Westlake was third and top master in 1:05:02. Ramsey had won in 2012 with 1:01:37. This year ten ladies were faster than Westlake’s time, including top master Cindy Conant, 52, in 1:04:07. The battle for runner-up was nearly a photo finish. Megan Digregorio was cruising through five miles in 30:27 and third place Victoria Berard was at 31:52. Berard put on an amazing 37 second negative split. Digregorio slowed more than two minutes in the second half to hold by less than a second in 1:03:06.

The race winner was never in doubt when Claire Hallissey towed the line at the start. She already has six overall wins in the winter 2014 season including an overall either sex victory. She raced the flatter Al Lewis 10M back in January in a pedestrian 1:06:33 that would have her in 13th place today. Of course that was a double out and back bike trail race in ten inches of snow and 13 timid degrees hiding from a chilling wind. Sunday she hit mile in 28:48 two minutes ahead of her Langley 8K win two weeks ago. She coasted home in 59:46 for 37th place overall. That was the fastest time since Susie Emond won in 2010 with 59:27.

This year the RRCA series was whittled back to ten races with four needed to score. Since the beginning the results have always been posted at Maryland RRCA Grand Prix Series. The Kent Island Running Group joined last year and this year their Half Metric Marathon is the second race of the series. Montgomery Road Runners over the years switched from a summer race, the Twilight 8K, to a fall race, the Rockville 10K, which then moved to winter. Now coming full circle they are leading off with the Germantown 5M in the spring.

This year the only change was that at the end of the parking lot runners had to “TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT,” screamed the course marshall. The course change resulted in a few less feet of altitude difference between the start and finish lines. The plentiful food and hot coffee was waiting outside right at the finish. By the time runners started to cool down, they were already back inside the gymnasium for the awards ceremony.

Striders' new balloon arch

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