When you not only set a personal record, but also a course record, and also beat the captain of the racing team, you know you’ve had a good day. That’s just what Kent Werner did at the annual Penguin Pace 5k in Columbia, MD, last Sunday. Kent trains with Carlos Renjifo, captain of the Howard County Strider racing team and last year’s winner of the race, and the two even warmed up together before the race. Wanting to keep Carlos in sight, Kent took the early lead and envisioned his adversary eventually passing him. But Kent never saw Carlos at all. “I thought he was playing with me!” Kent said. But he maintained his lead through the first downhill mile, and then through the second moderately flat mile, and then extended his lead on the final, laborious uphill to the finish. “No, I was racing,” Carlos said. Kent wound up handily winning the race in 15:55, the first time anyone had ever broken 16 minutes on the very hilly Longfellow neighborhood course.
The same drama nearly repeated itself in the women’s race. National-class duathlete Marjan Huizing, also a past winner of the Penguin Pace and favorite to win this year, survived a serious challenge from local favorite Tasha Clearman. Tasha spotted Marjan the early lead, but closed to within a few seconds on the last two hills, causing the leader to look back over her shoudler. Huizing hung on to win in 19:54, while Clearman settled for second in 20:04. Tasha might have won except she had run 17 miles the day before. “I’ve never run a 5k before,” she said. “I think I’ll try another one some day.”
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was on hand not only to help start the race, but also to participate in the event. He took so much heat last year from not running, that he decided “I’m running” this year.
The Penguin Pace sold out with 400 registrations during the week preceding the race. A total of 339 finished. Age group winners received the signature knit caps of the Penguin Pace, while the overall winners also received gift certificates from Feet First of Wilde Lake. All registered runners received a moisture-management long-sleeve t-shirt. After the race, runners gathered in the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia for a sumptuous brunch catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (c. 1744).
Directed by Arleen Dinneen, the race is staged early every February by the Howard County Striders. The Striders wish to thank the Florence Bain Senior Center for hosting the post-race brunch, and the Howard County Police for supervising the traffic control.
by Jim Carbary
“I was just trying to break 21 minutes,” Vicki Lang said about her performance in winning the women’s division at the Penguin Pace 5K. “That’s about all that I can do right now.” She need not have been so modest. On a frigid morning (coldest in the race’s history at 20F) and a very hilly course, she had just beaten the second place woman, Lisa Fichman, by 45 seconds. “The last hill did me in!” Vicki admitted, even though she was so far ahead that Lisa couldn’t see her.
Howard County Runner of the Year (2006) Carlos Renjifo handled the men’s competition by a similar margin, beating second place Conrad Orloff by another 45 seconds. Carlos won the race the year before and often trains on the hilly roads of Columbia’s Longfellow community, where the race took place. Immediately after he finished, Carlos went out for a “cool down” run.
The real competition took place among the master runners (over 40 years old). On the men’s side, Stuart Pineo outlasted Martin Goode, who was recently inducted into the Strider Hall of Fame. Stuart usually runs in his bare feet (!), but the cold conditions induced him to wear shoes this time. Among the masters’ women, Lisa Fichman started a few seconds late and found herself chasing Dorothy Beckett up the last long hill on Hesperus Drive. Lisa didn’t panic and overhauled her competitor to claim the master’s title (and second woman overall, too).
This year’s Penguin Pace contained at least two stories not related to winning awards. Drawing their motivation from John Bingham’s “Penguin Column” in Runners World magazine, Penguins from all over the United States have adopted Columbia, MD’s, Penguin Pace as their official race. The Penguins’ motto is “no need for speed,” so the hilly course is custom-made for them. Of special interest to the Penguins was Liz Ittman, who arose from her hospital bed in Tempe, AZ, made the trek to Columbia, and walked the entire 3.1 miles. Just behind her was the Striders’ own Arnat Vale, who completed the course on crutches. He had injured his calf running a recent marathon but would not be denied. “Well, I pre-registered a long time ago,” he explained.
The Penguin Pace said farewell this year to its storied announcer, Miles “The Voice” Weigold, who is retiring to Tucson, AZ. In honor of his retirement, the race retired the number 1 and presented Miles with a framed race number. “We will retire this number and no one will ever wear it again at Penguin Pace,” said race director Arleen Dinneen.
331 completed the Penguin Pace, which is staged every winter by the Howard County Striders. Overall and Age group winners received signature Penguin Pace knit caps, and all participants received really thick, warm sweatshirts in which they could kick back and watch the Superbowl later in the day. Not only that, but all participants enjoyed the post-race brunch catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (c. 1744).
by Jim Carbary
Carlos Renjifo recently became a resident of Howard County and began training with the Howard County Striders. Last Sunday, he ran his first Strider race, the Penguin Pace 5k (3.1 miles). He didn’t know exactly what to expect and was somewhat startled when David Shah (who came all the way from San Francisco, CA!) leapt from the start with a blazing first quarter mile— all downhill. Carlos matched that furious early pace, however, and the two had a lead of nearly 10 yards on everyone else when they turned onto Hesperus Drive at the bottom of the first hill. Carlos asserted control of the race at that point, completing the initial mile in an amazing 4:45. Shah himself faded to sixth overall, while Renjifo cruised to victory in 16:09. “My second mile was only 5:10,” Carlos related. He left shortly after finishing because he had to teach Sunday School.
The women’s race featured Strider 2005 Runner of the Year Robyn Humphrey, who not only won the women’s competition by over a minute, but also was the only woman to break 20 minutes on the extremely hilly Penguin Pace course. “It was not a strong day for me,” Robyn said, because she had run a race the weekend before and had done a hard track workout on the Thursday before.
In the masters (over-40) competition, Sheldon Degenhardt outlasted John Chall (2nd, 40-49M), although Sheldon’s main competition seemed to be Phil Lang, whom he finally succeeded in beating in the final quarter mile. “Phil ran a marathon two weeks ago,” Degenhardt explained. “He ran out of gas more than I ran out of gas.”
Strider Master Runner of 2005 Lisa Fichman won the women’s masters competition (21:36). “I ran behind Tiffany Lang’s (1st, 14&U) ponytail for the first mile,” Lisa confessed. Amelia Ingersoll shocked the master women by finishing second behind Fichman in the age group. Running the Strider weekly races, Ingersoll had been training on the very same “killer hills” on which the race occurred and she was ready.
If the hills were deadly, at least the weather cooperated. In 2005, a snow-ice storm forced cancellation of the Penguin Pace, so the relatively mild weather (37F at race time) was a relief. Temperatures were so warm, in fact, that many runners wore shorts! “This was not ‘penguin’ weather,” one runner remarked. The favorable weather (if not the hills!) drew a field of 347.
The race was directed by Arleen Dinneen, hosted by the Howard County Striders, and benefited the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia, MD. County Executive Jim Robey was on hand at 7:45 am to officially start the race, which began and ended at the senior center. After the race, participants and volunteers feasted on a fabulous brunch catered by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (c. 1744). Participants received multi-colored sweatshirts; age group winners received signature knit caps that proclaimed “I placed at the Penguin Pace 2006.”
by Jim Carbary
The 2005 Penguin Pace was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Because of the very cold weather last Sunday, the Penguin Pace 5k race more than lived up to its name this year. At the start, announcer Miles Weigold reviewed the course and told the runners about the water stop half-way through the race. “It’ll be water if you’re fast enough,” he said, “Ice if you’re not.”
The brutal cold did not seem to affect Sergiy Zubko, who jumped to an early lead and simply ran away from the field. The 15-year-old River Hill High School runner finished over a minute ahead of second place Jason Tripp, who was so far behind he didn’t even see Zubko finish. “He had a lot less time to be cold than most of you,” Mr. Weigold said when he handed Sergiy his award after the race. Sergiy was the only runner in the field to break 18 minutes.
Nationally-ranked duathlete Marjan Huizing held off Sykesville’s Sherry Stick in the women’s race, which was a lot closer than the men’s race: only seven seconds separated the top two women. “The cold made my eyes water,” Marjan remembered. But she was all right once she got warmed up a little. Using the 5k as a “test” of her winter conditioning, Marjan has won the Penguin Pace three times before.
The Pace marked the return to racing of Martin Goode, once among the fastest runners in Howard County. Finishing sixth overall, he placed second in the 40-49 age group in 18:40. A veteran of winter running, the cold weather didn’t bother the him at all. “I love the cold. Bring it on!”
With temperatures in middle teens, a field of 237 runners completed the 3.1-mile loop around Hickory Ridge. Because of renovations at the Forence Bain Senior Center, the Penguin Pace moved from its usual hilly course in the Longfellow neighborhood to a flatter and faster loop around Hickory Ridge.
Arleen Dinneen directed the Penguin Pace 5k, and she is also the director of the Florence Bain Senior Center, which benefits from the proceeds of the race. The Elkridge Furnace Inn provided post-race refreshments in the gymnasium of the Howard Community College, which graciously hosted the race this year. Age group winners received “toasty” warm winter caps, which they can really use this winter.
The Howard County Striders staged the race and wish to thank the Howard County Police and the volunteers who worked the course in the “freaking cold.”
by Jim Carbary
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
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
Two Virginians vied for the title of fastest fowl in Sunday’s hilly Penguin Pace 5k (3.1 miles) in Harper’s Choice. Ted Poulos of McLean, VA, who ran 100 races in 2000, outlasted Tim Renkiewicz of Burke, VA, who had ran a high school indoor meet the Saturday before the race. “I had a great first half,” Ted remarked about the first downhill mile in the race. He pulled away from the lead pack at the bottom of the first big hill, and Renkiewicz, who can run a flat mile in under 5 minutes, did his best to hold the pace. But the master of 100 races took a substantial lead going back up the same long hill and went on to win in 17:13- a time about 30 seconds slower than usual.
The women’s race featured the 1998 winner Connie Buckwalter of Lancaster, PA, and Rockville’s Marjan Huizing, who won the race in 2000. Ms. Buckwalter took off from the start and never let up, beating Huizing by the substantial margin of 17 seconds. “I didn’t know the competition,” commented the winner, who ran the 3.1 miles with a heart rate monitor so she could maintain her level of effort. “My heart rate went up slightly on the hill,” she said.
The Penguin Pace began and ended at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Harper’s Choice, winding down and then back up the steep hills of the Longfellow community next door. The event takes its inspiration from John Bingham’s “Penguin Chronicles,” a regular feature in Runners’ World magazine. Penguin affectionadoes have made the race their own, and penguins reportedly came from as far away as Vermont, Connecticutt, and California to run the race this year. Bingham himself was not available- he was in Antarctica running a real Penguin chase!
The field included one Vivian Bailey, born in February 1918, who celebrated her 83rd birthday at the Penguin Pace. Wearing race number 83, she received a special recognition award, and afterwards participants sang “Happy Birthday” to her. Ms. Bailey works out weekly at the senior center. Although intending to do the Penguin Pace next year, she commented “I don’t think I’ll become a runner.”
With the assistance of the Howard County Striders, Arleen Dinneen directed the race, which was the fifth Penguin Pace. The Howard County Police provided traffic control. Howard County Executive Jim Robey was on hand to start the race at 8 am. The Howard County Office of Aging provided organization and volunteers.
Nearly 300 registered for the race and 267 finished. Participants received a special Penguin Pace long-sleeved t-shirt, specially designed by artist Dan Herrick, and age-group winners received Penguin Pace knit caps. Participants and volunteers gathered in the Senior Center after the race for a lavish catered brunch by the Elkridge Furnace Inn (“since 1744”). The Banjo Buddies provided live entertainment while everyone chowed down on literal cornicopias of fresh fruit, vegetables, muffins and croissants, and assorted Dairy Maid juices.
Last Sunday morning dawned cold and clear with temperatures near 20F. The streets in Columbia had been cleared of recent snow, but small patches of ice remained at key turns on the Penguin Pace 5k, a very hilly race that started and ended at the Florence Bain Senior Center. Jeff Olenick, last year’s winner, and Mike Styczynski, Howard County Junior runner of 1999, found themselves locked in a close duel from the beginning until a sharp left-hand turn near the half-way point. “It was neck-and-neck until I slipped on the ice,” said Styczynski about his tumble that skinned his left knee and left Olenick, who runs for Goucher College, the leader of the field. “It was just dumb luck that he [Mike] fell down and I didn’t,” commented Jeff. Styczynski bounced right up after his fall, but neither runner regained his speed on the last, mostly-uphill part of the race. Olenick cruised the final mile and won in 16:11, 15 seconds ahead of Styczynski.
In the women’s contest, local favorite Robyn Humphrey assessed U.S. Team Duathlete Marjan Huizing at the start line with a “she looks pretty fast,” which turned out to be true. Humphrey’s own fast start did not phase Huizing, who normally runs a (flat) 5k in under 18 minutes. After the first downhill mile, Huizing overhauled Humphrey and, on the final uphill mile, put nearly a minute between herself and her competition, winning the women’s race in 19:29. “I don’t like the hills until after I’ve run them,” Marjan said about the terrain.
Among the older runners, Dr. Bobby Gessler annihilated the over-40 runners, with a time of 19:06, about a minute ahead of the second master, Gary Prada (father of the well-known Mike Prada). Robin Goodwin of Timonium surprised Columbia’s own Dorothy Beckett to win the women’s masters title. Second-place finisher Mike Styczynski seems to have been the only person in the race to fall down on the ice, which had been thoroughly sanded and salted. “We were going too slow to fall down,” said Al Greuter about the rest of the field. Barbara Walters and Ralph Massella agreed that, aside from the ice, the course was too hilly to set a personal record, so they didn’t try. “The experience [of running the course] was humbling,” said Ralph.
The main attraction to the Penguin Pace was probably not the challenging hills, but the lavish brunch enjoyed by all participants after the race at the cafeteria of the Senior Center. The brunch included muffins, sweet rolls, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables with dip, bread, croissants, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and orange juice. The Elkridge Furnace Inn, which has been in business since 1744, catered the affair and replenished the food trays as soon as supplies diminished. The Banjo Buddies Dixieland Band entertained the runners while they ate and provided drum rolls when the winners received their prizes.
The 2000 Penguin Pace drew a field of 311 finishers, which included a significant contingent of actual “penguins,” or followers of the “Penguin Chronicles” feature in Runner’s World. Columbia’s chief Penguin, Jeannette Lampron, estimated that about 40 of them showed up for the race. Some of them wore characteristic pink caps in the race, but none of them figured in the scoring. “After all, we’re penguins!”
Arleen Dineen directed the Penguin Pace, a Howard County Strider race that benefits the Howard County Department of Aging. Race and age-group winners received, appropriately, heavy knit caps appropriate for the season, and many others also won random awards. Principal sponsors of the race included Howard County General Hospital, the Lazarus Computer Foundation, Feet First of Wilde Lake, the Rouse Company, the Colosseum Gym and Fitness, the Manekin Real Estate, Comcast, and, of course, Team Penguin.