Despite the worst weather we’ve ever had in the 12 years of the race, this year’s Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer was still an amazing success! We set new race records for attendance, men’s winner, women’s winner, and Team winner, plus six new Virginia 24 Hour age group records!
The race is held each year at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, VA, on a 3.75 mile long loop of wide, flat dirt trails. The course is USATF-certified and was held this year on 25-26 April, 2015, starting at 7:15 am. Weather for the first 4 hours was overcast with temperatures in the upper 50s. But after that a steady rain began which continued for most of the remaining 20 hours. At times the rain became quite heavy and in the evening the temps dropped into the 40s, making for miserable conditions for the runners and walkers alike. To make matters worse for the last 12 hours, the trails turned into seemingly endless “mud pits” in many places!
Regardless, many people persevered, pushing deep for personal goals. A record 212 people participated, with 70 completing at least 50 miles, 14 completing 75 or more miles, and 7 running 100 or more miles. Most amazing were the new men’s and women’s course records. Steve Speirs ran 133.25 miles, a new record by 7.25 miles. And Megan Stegemiller ran an astounding 131 miles, a new record by 22.25 miles! Although the race cannot be used for USA 24 Hour Team qualification, her total was 6 miles over the minimum qualifying standard. Both won last year and were increasing their own records. The cold, wet conditions seemed to help rather than hinder their performances!
In addition, Team Run4Life set a new Team mileage record of 834.25 miles, breaking the 3-year old record of 803.5 miles. And finally, another six Virginia 24 Hour State Age Group records were set. 11-year old Dean Richter ran 18.75 miles for the M10-14 record, 26-year old Megan Stegemiller set a new Open (F20-34) record, 35-year old Andrea McHugh ran 88.25 miles for the F35-39 record, 40-year old Kathleen Cusick ran 117.25 miles for the F40-44 record, 72-year old Terri Hayes got the F70-74 record with 37.5 miles, and 78-year old Tami Graf ran an amazing 45.25 miles to set a new F75-79 record!
The women’s race started off, as expected, in a two person duel between Megan and Kathleen. Both have impressive credentials, winning or placing 2nd-3rd in several recent 100-mile races. However, after about the 8-hour point Megan started to steadily pull away and kept increasing her lead the rest of the race! 3rd place Christie Sumner ran a smart, steady pace all day long, achieving a personal record of 92.25 miles, but never threatened the leaders.
The men’s race was never in doubt, as Steve had no serious competition the entire day until the last 2 hours, when he realized Megan was closing on him. That spurred him on and he pulled away to ensure the overall win by 2.25 miles. 2nd place Tim Scott set a personal record with 106.25 miles, and finally overcame the 100-mile barrier at this race for the first time, after six previous tries. After starting off at too fast a pace, he recovered well and finally pushed through. 3rd place went to Scott Horton from Tennessee with 105 miles.
Every year I give an award to the runner who I determine ran the best effort in their first attempt at an ultra. This year I gave it to 45-year old Shanna Oden who ran 65 miles. She ran a steady, even pace and continued into the final hour, looking strong all the way to the end.
I also award 500-mile jackets to those who keep returning to the race over the years to accumulate a total of 500 miles. This year I gave out three – to Stuart Kern, Tim Scott, and Glenn Hrinda.
As always, the entire Sandy Bottom Nature Park Staff did an outstanding job of supporting the race from preparation/set-up, throughout the race itself, and during clean-up afterward! Every need was anticipated and taken care of. And their participation as a Team again greatly enhanced the event!
Finally, I cannot say enough about the fantastic support and dedication of this year’s volunteer lap counters! Without them, the race could not be successful. They did an almost flawless job of accurately recording laps, in spite of the atrocious weather. Many thanks go to: Jon Olyszk, Steve Peters, Jackie Crawford, Pete Navin, Ulaine Jean-Baptiste, Ashleigh Tyler, Natalie Soares, Dawn Marshall, Nichole Thomas, Dawn Brand, Paige Kurtz, Maria Poranski, Alison Tichenor, Joan Lutz, Barb & Pete Biasi, Ed Rietscha, Phil Burke, Will Palagyi, Dean Wewetzer, Roslyn Gervin, and three Bethel High School students (Noah Guion, Jacobe Avery, Tyler Townsend). Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank Pete Wolf for taking over 500 awesome photos during the race.
Next year’s race will be 30 April – 1 May! Hope to see you then. I guarantee better weather!