Scrolling through the running news, I stumbled across a story on Camille Herron, a globally-renowned ultra runner who owns 10 world records and is seemingly just as famous for her ability to fuel these efforts with beer and pizza.
I couldn’t help but say, “Hey, I know her!” as I read her name, even though I don’t really. I’ve never met Camille in real life, but I did once get an hour to chat with her during a large-group Q & A session, arranged through Facebook of all places.
I’ve also gotten to “meet” other world-class runners under similar circumstances, including Michael Wardian and John Kelley, a two-time finisher at the nightmarish Barkley Marathons.
And sure, maybe it could be dumb luck that I got an opportunity to interact ever so briefly with these stars, but there are other factors that have me convinced this is more about runners being accessible than anything else.
One of the most receptive pro athletes I’ve ever met is Neely Spence Gracey, a Shippensburg standout who finished as the Top American at the Boston Marathon in 2016 and more recently was the top overall finisher at this year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon. When you’ve experienced as much success as some of these athletes have, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of “fan mail” that comes in many forms, ranging from Tweets and Instagram posts to media requests. But Neely always seems ready to dot every i and cross every t when it comes to interaction.
It’s nice to know that Neely is just one message away, and the same can be said for her dad, Steve Spence, a Lower Dauphin grad who represented the U.S. in the marathon at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Sometimes the big names have a way of finding you, like Karl Metzler — who once held the fastest-known time (FKT) for completing the Appalachian Trail — once did to me, when he took to Facebook to comment on a story I wrote passing along the findings of an overseas study that determined American runners are slower now than they have ever been.
It might sound like I’m name-dropping here (though this is an impressive list, now that I think about it!), but I guarantee many of our readers who are dedicated runners have similar stories of their own.
If you’ve ever taken part in a major marathon or half, guess what, you’ve already gotten to compete on the same playing field as some of the best runners on the planet, in the same race!
I like to joke that you’re not a real runner until you’ve had a photo taken with legendary American marathon Olympian Meb Keflezighi, who is just as passionate about this sport’s participants as he is about the sport itself.
I couldn’t imagine playing on the same court as Michael Jordan, or casually texting Tom Brady, but in the case of running, we have an unrivaled amount of access to the stars of our sport.
Don’t believe me? Give this sport a try for yourself. You just might be surprised with who you “run into” along the way.
1 STEP BACK, 3 STEPS FORWARD
Chambersburg’s streets were chock full of runners, 271 to be exact, as the Race Against Poverty 5K put on another blazing-fast event on Friday night.
It was a race that saw the Top 13 runners all break the 20-minute barrier. Dustin Adams, of Shippensburg, repeated as champion with a time of 16:31, with others in the Top 10 including Fayetteville’s Karter Reath (3rd in 17:16) and Julian Clark (6th in 18:47), Chambersburg’s Liam Kirkpatrick (4th in 17:53), Michael Day (7th in 18:52), and Eyoel Delesa (10th in 19:39), and Greencastle’s Jarrett Gelsinger (5th in 18:34).
On the women’s side of the race, Chambersburg’s Amanda Balzer repeated as race champion, posting a 20:28 to finish on top of a field that included Chambersburg’s Sarah Boward (3rd female in 21:25) and Waynesboro’s Ella Stewart (24:24).
One week earlier in Fayetteville, the Keep Moo-ving Forward 5K drew a field of 36 and saw Chambersburg’s Abigale Bricker run away for victory in 23:07. Other top finishers from the race include Greencastle’s Dave Miller (6th in 27:19) and Shannon Shuttle (7th in 27:50), and Chambersburg’s Loudon Bricker (9th in 30:42).
Memorial Day proved to be a good holiday for Local.News runners to sharpen their skills on the racing scene. In Gettysburg, the Memorial Day Free 5K featured strong performances from Waynesboro’s Stephen Bui (22:41) and Jeffrey Hein (26:36), Fayetteville’s Patrick Gavet (22:59), Greencastle’s Katie Buckwalter (24:19), and Chambersburg’s Tia Mulewich (27:07). Fayetteville’s Wing Lam Cheung made the trip to Harrisburg for the Platinum Memorial Day 5K, and was rewarded with a time of 23:56 to take second in the 30-39 AG.
The Baltimore 10 Miler was invaded by a small group of Franklin County runners, including Fayetteville’s Patrick Gavet (1:29:28) and Jamey Loudermilk (1:41:29), Waynesboro’s Kimberly Smith (1:35:56) and Michael Smith (1:35:57), Chambersburg’s Christine Metcalfe (1:55:00), and Greencastle’s Wanda Baker (1:58:36).
In Waterfall, the Old Turnpike Half Marathon saw 248 runners run through the tunnels of the abandoned Pa. Turnpike, including a couple of standouts from Greencastle. Matthew Smith won the 40-49 AG with a 1:35:29, while Jordan Statler was just behind in 1:44:09.
It’s been a few weeks since the Bubbletown What the Duck Ultra 12 Hour in Boiling Springs, but still, forgive Chambersburg’s Mike Hepner if you see him still limping around town. That’s because Hepner compiled 55.34 miles in 11:51:13 to take third place in the field of 143. Shelby White (48.25 miles in 11:42:52) and Kirk Clever (48.25 miles in 11:46:18) also landed in the Top 10, while fellow Chambersburg runners Wendy Lococo (38.31 miles) and Brandon Sherman (36.89) also piled on some serious distance.
And finally a shoutout to Daniel Hoover, of Chambersburg, who placed third in 23:13 at the Mount Nittany Wine Run 5K, a race in Centre Hall that drew 186 runners.
And now, a look ahead:
Ed/K Dr. Edwin Sponseller Memorial Run 5K/10K: Saturday, 9 a.m., in Chambersburg. Run this race to honor the life of Dr. Edwin Sponseller, and benefit the Livestrong program at the Chambersburg YMCA. Learn more on timberhilltiming.com.
Strokes, Spokes, and Strides Sprint Triathlon: Saturday, 8 a.m., in Waynesboro. Start with an indoor swim at the Waynesboro YMCA, then take it outdoors for the bike and run phases. Search for the event on runsignup.com.
Solstice 5K/10K: Wednesday, June 21, 7 p.m., in Shippensburg. Enjoy an evening run with this race, which celebrates the start of the summer season. Check out more info at timberhilltiming.com.
Also: Book it for the Annville Free Library 5K (Saturday, in Annville); Dumb Dutchman Half Marathon (Saturday, in Reading); Half Sauer Half Kraut Marathon (Saturday, in Philadelphia); Iron Run Half Marathon (Saturday, in Gardners); Lake Wilhelm Marathon (Saturday, in Sandy Lake); Laurel Highlands Ultra (Saturday, in Ohiopyle); Medal Madness Ninja Half Marathon (Saturday, in York); Poconos Triathlon Festival (Saturday-Sunday, in Hawley); Thirsty Thursday 5K (Thursday, June 15, in Reading); Second State Marathon (Friday, June 16, in Greentown); Ghost Town Trail Challenge (Saturday, June 17, in Black Lick); Hamburg Half Marathon (Saturday, June 17, in Hamburg); Medal Madness Ninja 5K/10K (Saturday, June 17, in Akron); Medal Madness Ninja Half Marathon (Saturday, June 17, in Boiling Springs); Coventry Woods Trail Running Festival (Sunday, June 18, in Pottstown); Smith’s Challenge Trail Race (Sunday, June 18, in Lancaster); HARRC Summer Solstice 7K (Wednesday, June 21, in Harrisburg).