“Don’t fall back! Don’t fall back!” Jen Ecker kept saying to herself to stay close to Sherry Stick, frontrunner of the Women’s Distance Festival 5k last Sunday. Sykesville’s Sherry Stick had taken an early lead in the race with Howard County’s Ecker and Vicki Lang in pursuit. After a mile or so, however, all Ecker or Lang could do was try to keep Stick in sight. “About all we could do was beat the younger ladies in the race,” Vicki recalled. Stick swept on to an easy victory in 18:58— over half a minute ahead of second-place Ecker.
The race among over-40 women turned into a much more exciting affair, with the Strider’s master-runner of 2005 Lisa Fichman eventually overcoming Amelia Ingersoll. “I thought it was hot and the uphills were challenging,” Fichman said. The “really fast women” were so far in front of her that she found herself running alone for much of the 3.1 mile course. “I couldn’t see the runners in front of me, but I could hear breathing behind me!” That would have been Ingersoll, whose 21:41 came up only 11 seconds short of Fichman at the end. Both Fichman and Ingertsoll finished in the top 10 of the all-woman field.
In addition to the individual and age-group competition, the WDF 5k feature mother-daughter team competition. The “Running TV’s” team of Vicki and Tiffany Lang edged the “Hitchhikers” team of Alyssa and Karen Shouse, 3 points to 7 points in the 14-and-under daughter group. Alyssa beat her mom Karen for the first time ever in a race, although she couldn’t quite outrun down Tiffany Lang. Among the 15-and-up daughter group, Colleen, Kerin, and Maureen Thornton beat Christine Trzeinski and Diane Davis by two points for the championship.
The 5k race served as graduation for the Howard County Striders’ Females In Training (FIT). Over 50 women, many of them novice athletes, had been training since spring under the direction of veteran Strider women. All of them finished the race. One of them, Marlene Spence, joined the FIT group at the suggestion of her friend, Lisa Fichman. The WDF was Marlene’s first run ever. “I kept asking myself, how did I get to this point?” Marlene said.
The race began and ended at Howard Community College, which allowed the use of its gymnasium for pre- and post-race activities. A total of 270 women competed in the race, which is held every summer in conjunction with various other RRCA WDF events throughout the country. All registants received a WDF singlet. Overall, age-group, and team winners received lucite plaques and gift certificates to Feet First of Wilde Lake. Nearly every woman in the race also got a random prize— no fewer than four large tables were needed to display these randoms.
The Women’s Distance Festival commemorates the birth of the women’s Olympic marathon in 1982. Many women in the Howard County WDF are also trying to complete all the Mid-Atlantic WDF races and some of them who run on Sunday also ran the Annapolis WDF the day before. “It was much warmer today than yesterday in Annapolis!” said Julie Trapp, who did both races.
Dorothy Beckett and Tacy Feliciano directed Howard County’s WDF. The race is staged each year by the Howard County Striders, who thank their volunteers, the Howard County Police, the Howard Community College, and their many sponsors. The Howard Community Hospital provided major funding for the event.
by Jim Carbary