“One girl went out at a 17-minute 5K pace (which is very fast)” Katie Brietenbach said of the women’s race at Sunday’s 10 Mile Team Challenge race in Columbia, “but she must have been a rabbit because I saw her walking at three miles.” A local favorite from the Howard County Striders, Ms. Breitenbach was at that point running behind Westminster’s Sherry Stick in second place among the women. The women’s pack then entered the hills in the Allview Estates community and, although she held second place, Katie said “the hills depleted me.” As the women emerged from the hills and re-crossed Route 29 near seven miles, Eileen Fleck of the Baltimore Road Runners and Jessica Laurent of the DC Road Runners swept past both Breitenbach and Stick. Katie continued racing as best she could. “I remembered what I was wearing,” namely, the Strider racing singlet, and she managed to finish fourth among the females and scored for the women’s team. All four broke 70 minutes, which was good enough for the Striderwomen to edge the Falls Road women and win the women’s team competition 33 points to 39 points (low score winning).
The men’s race started off the same way as the women’s race, with one runner bolting away to a commanding lead. But as the miles rolled by this guy showed no signs of slowing down. An elite runner from the Pacers-Brooks team, Steven Crane left no doubt about who would win the race. (He did, in 53:27). But Crane was unattached to a team, and that left Falls Road’s Kip Bitok battling Striders Kent Werner, Stephen Moxey, and Carlos Renjifo for second place. “I guess our pack was better than the Falls Road pack,” Carlos said, because the Stridermen carefully stayed together for most of the 10 miles while the Falls Road runners didn’t. But bragging rights for the fastest runner went to Falls Road, because Bitok out-sprinted Werner by one second. “He was taunting me,” Kent said, realizing that Kip (who has run a sub-50 minute 10 miles) might have easily outrun him. (“I told him before the race I was going to,” Kip said.) Nevertheless, Howard County placed six among the top 10 men, and 11 among the top 20, scoring 95 total points, which overwhelmed the Falls Road team (345 points) as well as all the other men’s teams.
With the Striderwomen and Stridermen winning their respective team competitions, the Striders handily won the overall coed team competition with a combined score of 456 points, well ahead of Falls Road, who managed 732 points. The top 12 men in nine teams, and the top 4 women in ten teams scored. The teams consisted of runners from local Road Runners Clubs of America (RRCA). Although the overall male and female winners received trophies, the general awards and the glory went to the teams. There were no age group awards, no random prizes, and no t-shirts. (There were, however, glazed doughnuts and coffee at the post-race ceremony.) A total of 544 runners finished the race.
The Howard County Striders host the RRCA 10 Mile Challenge every February, weather permitting. The Striders won the last 10 Mile Challenge in 2006; an ice storm prevented the event in 2007. Richard Bernstein directed the race, with considerable help from those Howard County Striders who did not race. The Striders also wish to thank the Howard County Police for providing traffic control on a long, tricky course, and the Howard Community College for serving as the pre- and post-race venue.
by Jim Carbary