For the first time its 35-year history, the Columbia Metric Marathon(26.2 km) featured pacers and pace groups, with paces from 7:45 per mile to 10:30 per mile in 15 second per mile increments. Just a couple weeks shy of her 50th birthday, Donna Wecker decided she would tag along with the fastest pace group, lead by Keith Levassuer and Len Supsic. Donna had finished third at last year’s Metric, and decided a more conservative approach this year was warranted. She also wore a camelback loaded with those expensive carbo-fluids guaranteed to get you through long distance events. “I didn’t want to stop at the water stops,” she explained. And the pacing thing didn’t last more than three miles. “They were going too slow.” Since there were no women going as fast as Wecker, she began running with Hafiz Shaikh, organizer of the Bagel-to-Brew Marathon. Hafiz proved a worthy pacer, and though he wound up finishing ahead of Donna, she succeeded in breaking two hours (the only woman to do so) and winning the whole race. “Those carbs really helped, too,” she said. Her pace was vastly faster than 7:45 per mile, so she really was wise not to go pacing.
There was no thought of pacing among the men. Mark Buschman bolted to an early lead and left in his dust the race favorites Peter Keating (second in 2010) and Karsten Brown (first in 2010). “Mark outclassed the field from the quarter mile mark,” Karsten said. The greatest danger to Buschman’s lead was that he might venture off the Metric course that winds through Ellicott City and then into the warrens of Columbia’s bike paths. Happily, lead biker Bill Brandenstein kept him on course. “The biker was a nice guy,” Mark said, “and I didn’t go off course.” Buschman finished over two minutes ahead of second (again) place Peter Keating. “I didn’t get lost either,” Peter said, “but I was hoping Mark would.”
Sponsored by the Pepsi Cola Company, the Pepsi Pacers brought home a number of Metric Marathoners on course and on schedule. There were two pacers for each group. “That’s in case one of them conks out, the other can take over,” explained veteran pacer George Orlean. In addition to Keith Levassuer, who had just won the Rosaryville 50k race the day before, the pacers included Strider President Dwight Mikulis (10:15 per mile) and Strider membership chairman Donnie Chapman (8:45 per mile). Mr. Chapman was particularly proud of bringing his group within two seconds of the appointed time (2 hours 23 minutes). To ensure the proper pace, Pepsi Pacers employed every trick in the book from simple watches to carrying lists of split times to advanced GPS tracking.
A total of 383 finished the Metric Marathon. Overall winners received plaques and certificates for Asics shoes. Age group winners received medals. There were a number of random prizes of gift certificates & merchandise.
For those not up to running a Metric Marathon, or those wishing something to do while their spouses did, there was the accompanying Metric 5k, which started a few minutes after the Metric. Atholton High School’s Gary Smolyak had run the Maryland State Cross Country Championships the day before, but he still have enough left to crush the men’s field in the 5k with the only time under 18 minutes. “I didn’t do so well at States,” he confided. In the women’s 5k, Eileen Fleck and Rebecca Parks raced neck and neck for the whole 3.1 miles, but finally Eileen edged Rebecca by two seconds for the win. 310 runners finished the 5k, some of whom were quite speedy. They had no pacers, but they did have first options for the Ledo’s pizzas and warm biscuits from Copeland’s of New Orleans.
John and Ann Worley directed the Metric Marathon and the Metric 5k, which is staged each autumn by the Howard County Striders. The race date was recently moved from December to November in the hopes of more favorable weather, and this year the weather was breathtakingly nice. The Striders wish to thank the vast number of course marshals and water stop volunteers along the course, and particularly the Howard County Police, who regulated traffic at key intersections.
And there was enough pizza left over that some people wound up taking home whole pizzas. “Just in time for the Ravens game,” one of them said.
— by Jim Carbary