Connie Buckwalter and her husband Marc had to get up at 4:30 am to drive from Lititz, PA, (it’s near Lancaster) to Columbia to get to the Penguin Pace 5k in time for the 8 am start. (“It takes longer with the two dogs,” she explained.) But once Connie got going, she outran Marjan Huizing, a national class duathlete, as well as local favorite Julie Thienel. Actually, Diana Gullam had the initial lead on the early downhill, but Ms. Buckwalter passed her at the bottom and took the lead for good. Connie held off Marjan, who had won the race the previous two years, by eight seconds. The hills and the ice on the back of the course bothered her. “But everything bothers me at this time of year!” Connie noted. “I felt like a real penguin!”
The ageless Ted Poulos (41 years old) held off Sergiy Zubko (14 years) by only three seconds to win the men’s race in 17:28. Ted was not available for comments afterwards, but (if we know Ted) he was probably on his way to another race. He ran over 200 races in 2002 and is a regular at the Sunday afternoon weekly races put on by the Howard County Striders. “His entry fees alone would be enough to buy a house,” commented awards-presenter Miles Weigold.
The Penguin Pace 5k (3.1 miles) runs through the Longfellow and Beaver Brook neighborhoods of Columbia and manages to find the most disagreeable hills. Recent rains and cold weather made for an even more adventurous race this year, as ice formed on the roads around Beaver Brook loop. Although the turns were salted, the uphills were slick in places and runners really did have to slow down. “I lost at least three minutes!” joked Pat Wilkerson, first masterwoman, whose time of 20:08 really did not reflect a problem with the footing. “It didn’t bother me enough to count,” said Dorothy Beckett, Pat’s chief competition in the age group.
Arleen Dinneen directed the Penguin Pace, which has been run in the winter since about 1996. The Howard County Striders provided the finish line and race results and helped marshal the course, while the Howard County Police directed traffic.
The race began and ended at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Harpers Choice. After the race, runners gathered in the center’s cafeteria for a lavish brunch catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (since 1744). Overall and age group winners received a blue Penguin Pace knit cap- perfect for the remainder of the winter- and there were a number of random prizes.
County Executive Jim Robey was on hand to start the race, although Dave Tripp’s whistle may have caused some confusion before Jim officially started the race. Before the start, the runners offered a moment of silence for the Columbia astronauts.
by James Carbary