BY GEORGE A. HANCOCK
Runners learn quickly to respect Mother Nature’s weather whims.
The starting line temperature was approaching 70 degrees when the marathon and half marathon runners began their morning trek. An hour later the 5K and 10K runners dashed down Main Street beneath even warmer skies. The calendar read Sunday, Oct. 6, but the weather resembled a July weekend.
A.J. Kelly, 31, from Altoona, won the 38th Greater Johnstown YMCA Marathon in 2:47:17. Kelly entered the Point Stadium with a facial expression only experienced runners could appreciate. Kelly was clearly overheated from his 26.2-mile marathon jaunt.
Yet, he was pleased with his first Johns-town Marathon run and win.
“I was on pace through the halfway point of running my best marathon time ever,” a weary Kelly said. “I pretty much was leading the race from the start. Johnstown has a well-marked course. I liked that Johnstown police motorcycle escort. Of course, a cooler day would be nice, too.”
The Altoona resident is an accomplished runner.
Kelly normally runs 16 to 20 races a year. Kelly said his goal is “to win as many of these races as I can.”
This year has been fruitful for Kelly.
He won the Cape May County Ocean Drive Marathon in March in 2:34:29. He won the April Gettysburg North South Marathon in 2:42:10. Kelly placed second in the June Coudersport God’s Country Marathon in 2:48:58. Kelly also won the September Mt. Nittany Marathon in 2:45:48.
Brian Benestad, 30, from Pittsburgh, was the second marathon finisher in 2:54:46. Fifty-six-year-old Joe Guilyard from Penfield finished third in 3:27:14.
Kelly and Guilyard were the only two runners to crack that three-hour marathon time.
Sarah Strayer, 24, from South Fork, was the first female marathon finisher.
Strayer was third overall in 3:07:38. Strayer is a Forest Hills and Shippensburg University graduate and is employed by The Learning Lamp. Strayer has become a formidable force on the local race scene.
She is receiving superb marathon advice. Strayer’s uncle is Jonathan Strayer, a seven-time Johnstown Marathon winner.
The Sunday race was Sarah Strayer’s first marathon. Strayer stated her goal “was to finish around three hours. I started nice but experienced back cramps around Mile 15.”
Strayer was asked about a future marathon. She smiled and said, “We’ll see.
“I’m on the Run for God (RFG) team,” Strayer continued. “I give God glory for all my running success.”
Melissa Gillette, 30, from Goshen, Ind., placed behind Strayer at fourth overall in 3:10:22. Gillette is the wife of six-time Johnstown winner Justin Gillette, who was standing unnoticed near the finish line, nursing a foot injury.
When asked if he would return for the 2014 Johnstown Marathon, Gillette replied, “I plan on being back.”
Some race directors might have panicked when faced with Sunday’s weather conditions, but there is a reason why the Greater Johnstown YMCA just completed its 38th Johnstown Marathon and companion races.
Sharon Jones, the YMCA executive director, has a small army of volunteers. An estimated 250 to 300 volunteers were present assisting with the various race day duties.
The 5K was won by 19-year old Dylan Kutruff of Flinton in 18:46. Laura Spengler, 50, of Hollsopple, was the first female 5K runner in 27:08.
Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky was ecstatic with his top-10 5K finish. Chernisky complemented the YMCA staff for their race day efforts.
“I was very impressed with the Y’s organization and volunteer support,” Chernisky said. “These races are just another great example of the events available in Cambria County.”
Chernisky completed his 5K run in 26:34.
Ebensburg’s Sam Schilling, 38, won the 10K run in 41:24. Johnstown’s Catherine Muchesko, 30, was the first female 10K runner and third overall in 44:15.
Evan Miller, 26 from Pittsburgh, won the half marathon in 1:31:59. Greensburg resident Annah Sukay, 42, was the first female half marathon finisher in 1:38:36.
Fifty-five runners completed the 2013 Johnstown Marathon.
The half marathon had 101 finishers with 46 competitors in the 10K and 71 athletes in the 5K.