The 2002 Penguin Pace 5k proved so popular that the field closed at a record number of 350 runners, and some hopefuls had to be turned away at registration. In spite of the crowded field, the race’s front-runners were distinctly alone. Anthony Fleg, Howard County’s Most-Improved Runner for 2001, seized the lead only 200 yards from the start, and he was never challenged on his way to a 16:38 victory. Fleg’s only competition seemed to be the Mike Kreft, the lead biker. “The bicycle guy kept looking back at me when I tried to pass him,” and, indeed, he almost did pass Mr. Kreft on the last uphill. Marjan Huizing, the 2000 U.S. National Champion Duathlete, similarly took the early lead in the women’s race and, quite literally, never looked back on her way to winning in 19:08. Fleg had never run the race, but Huizing had won in 2000 and usually comes up from her home in Rockville, MD, every February to run the race. After the race, Marjan headed off for a 50-mile bike ride while Anthony jogged out along the course to meet his mother, Rose, who also ran.
Huizing may have blown away her competition, but an intense race for second took place in her wake. Pat Wilkerson, Julie Thienel, and Kerrie Bowes traded places for 2 1/2 miles until Bowes and Theinel pulled away on the last uphill. In the last 50 yards, Kerrie finally out-sprinted Julie to claim second (19:54). Wilkerson faded to fourth among the women. “On Tuesday, I’m starting speedwork,” said Pat, who was the first masterwoman to finish.
Ted Poulos, now in the masters category, added to his own legend by edging 19-year-old Sean Dinces of Corona, CA, for second place. Ted ran 229 races in 2001 and won 127 of them. Other outstanding performances at the Pace included those of Ronnie Wong (1st, 50-59) who had just won his age gorup at the Bermuda Marathon, John Elliott (1st, 60-69) who finished right behind Ronnie, and Junior Striders Nathan D’Amico (age 10, 21:31) and Melodie Bowler (age 11, 24:00). Vivian Bailey celebrated her 84th birthday by running the race and received special recognition.
The event serves as a focal point every February for the Penguins who follow the “Penguin Chronicles” in Runner’s World. About 20 Penguins flocked to the race this year, coming from as far away as San Diego, CA. Chief Columbia Penguin Jeanette Lampron had them over for a pasta dinner and slumber party the night before. Penguin Mary De Mattia (2nd, 60-69 women) came all the way from Noli, MI, which is only a few miles from Hell, MI, which, she said, was “frozen over in February.”
Featuring the toughest hills in Columbia, MD, the race started and ended at the Florence Bain Senior Center. Arleen Dinneen directed the race (she also directs the Senior Center) with the support of the Howard County Striders and the Howard County Police. Dicarlo Raspberry of Swansfield Elementary School sang a rousing “God Bless America” before the start of the race, and Howard County Chief Executive Jim Robey started the event with “Go!” After finishing, runners enjoyed a sumptuous brunch of fresh vegetables, croissants, muffins, coffee and juice catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (circa 1744). “The food is always better than the course!” commented Eric Johnston, who runs the race every year. Age group winners received Penguin Pace hats, just in time for the winter.
by James Carbary