“Go ahead, you can catch those girls,” Julie Deutschmann-Thienel said to Kerry Bowes half way through the Women’s Distance Festival 5k last Friday, July 6. The two had met for the first time on July 4 at the Meadefest 5k, where the younger Bowes had finished second overall and just beaten Thienel, who had set a personal record. Half-way around the Columbiba Mall, however, Julie ran ahead of Kerry and seemed on the verge of retaliation. When Bowes caught her rival the two of them were in third and fourth place, and Thienel’s words encouraged the former University of Maryland miler enough to challenge and overtake the leaders. Running “relaxed,” Ms. Bowes went on to win the all-woman race by the margin of 20 seconds. Thienel hung on to finish third overall, narrowly missing second place in a spirited sprint against Kristen Bremmer of Baltimore but setting yet another personal record.
Mothers-and-daughters paired up to compete in two age groups as two-person teams, although some of the 24 teams may have signed up to showcase peculiar team names. In the event, Bob’s Babes (Lindsay and Nancy Burns) outlasted the Georges (Libby and Lissa George) in the 15-and-Up group, while the Hibberts (Kathy and Jessica) overwhelmed the Under-15 group. The Georges have won the team competition in previous years, but were handicapped this year by Libby’s suffering a broken foot in the Spring while running for Haverford College. “I was happy to finish under 27 [minutes]!” enthused her mother Lissa.
The WDF race drew an all-woman field of 382 finishers. The women began running at midnight and circled the Columbia Mall twice. Unseasonably cool weather as well as the absence of a concert at Meriwether Post Pavilion and a nearly flat course made for a comfortable race. In spite of the favorable conditions, the numbers of runners was diminished somewhat because many were out of town for Independence Day.
Six-year-old Alyssa Shouse, the youngest runner, ran with her sisters Nicole and Chelsea. They all set personal records, and Alyssa beat her older sister, Chelsea. “My shoes came untied,” protested Chelsea (it was her first 5 km). “I had to carry Alyssa to the car because she was asleep,” commented Mrs. Karen Shouse about their late-night arrival. Along with all the 12 and under girls, the Shouse sisters received medals, and young Alyssa also won a random award.
For many of the women, the 5 km race marked their graduation from the Females In Training (FIT) program, conducted by the Howard County Striders every Spring. The FIT women had been running (and walking) every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon since April. Over 50 participants graduated this Spring.
For winning the race, Kerry Bowes earned a free entry into the Avon Women’s race in Baltimore in September as well as a Dry Release Shirt and other merchandise. Age group winners received lucite plaques and gift certificates from Feet First. Every participant got multi-color t-shirts and enjoyed bagels, fruit, spring water, and FIT graduation cake at the post-race ceremony.
Carrie Perfetto and Mikie Nard, two former FIT students, made their debut as directors of the Women’s Distance Festival. They were supported by the Howard County Strider men, who marshaled the race and managed the finish line, by the Howard County Police, and most importantly by Columbia Mall personnel who stayed up much later than usual to help administer the race. The Howard County General Hospital was the principal sponsor of the race and contributed a donation to the Sexual Trauma Treatment and Recovery (STTAR) Center on behalf of the Women’s Distance Festival.
The race is one of a series of WDF races held during the summer under the auspices of the Road Runner’s Club of America. Originally intended to celebrate the beginning of the women’s marathon at the Olympics, the WDF races now encourage women’s fitness through running. The Howard County edition of the Festival has taken place since the 1980’s.
by Jim Carbary