Runnerz In the Night tops in Open Male category
Band of 12 places 2nd among 116 teams
By Kevin Spradlin
CUMBERLAND – Runnerz In the Night team coordinator Wayne Kretzer said Saturday night, some 27 hours after the start of the inaugural Ragnar Relay race from Cumberland to Arlington, Va., that he thought his band of 12 runners “might have been one of the five fastest.”
Turns out he was just being modest.
“I’m a little sore, but I’m getting there,” Kretzer said after his team of eight men and four women won the Open Male division and placed second overall among 116 teams in the 181-mile relay.
“We were movin’.” He got that right.
Twelve-person teams ran three legs each between 2.5 miles and 9.2 miles starting on the C&O Canal Towpath in the Queen City of Cumberland at Canal Place and finished on Crystal Drive near the Washington Memorial Parkway. It took the team 22 hours, 58 minutes and 42 seconds from start to finish. The team averaged 7:36 per mile.
After team anchor Doug Oates, of Hagerstown, crossed the finish line at 12:58 p.m. Saturday, the initial results looked promising. Kretzer said Runnerz In the Night – comprised of 10 runners ages 26 to 31 and two others, including Kretzer, the only masters (40-and-over) runner – was the 20th team to cross the finish line after being one of the last teams to start their trek southeast from Western Maryland to south of the nation’s capital. Team members hailed from Allegany, Washington and Frederick counties and Northern Virginia.
There was a bit of strategy involved. Kretzer did his best to identify his runners’ strengths and weaknesses and put them in the positions where he felt they could best contribute. Some runners he was very familiar with. Oates and Eamon Connelly, of Frederick, was a member of Kretzer’s state title-winning cross country team in 1996 at Boonsboro High School.
Others in the group were total strangers. Kevin Hasselman, of Northern Virginia, is a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard. Rachel Rose, of Bethesda, is an instructor at University of Maryland. Kretzer’s task of placing runners was made that much harder as the legs weren’t finalized until the day of the race.
Other team members included Kevin Spradlin, of Ellerslie; Victor Cretella, of New Market; Chad Connors, of Adamstown; and Gina Benincasa, Alyona Richey, Jo-elle Burgaard and Rory Finneren, all of the Washington, D.C. metro area.
“I really think I had the right people in the right positions,” Kretzer said. “I just don’t think there’s anything I could have done to improve our overall time (or) place. Even though some ran some very hard legs, they came through like troopers.”
“I want to congratulate everyone on a great effort over those two days,” Kretzer wrote in a closing email to team members before results were announced. “I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people as I hoped you liked meeting others. I know we are all pretty sore, but I (hope) it was worth it for the fun, excitement and just the overall experience of a race like this.”
“We finished just 25 behind my (projected) time schedule,” he continued. “This means we were just 8 seconds per mile, or 40 seconds per leg, slow, which isn’t much.”
The race, believed to be the first of its kind on the East Coast, is unique in that it relies on volunteers from each team to help officiate each exchange location – 36 in all – and monitor runners along the course in dismal weather conditions.
Runnerz In the Night was aided by Hagerstown residents Ray Jackson and Gerri Jackson, who helped at the exchange in front of E. Russell Hicks Middle School on state Route 65 in Hagerstown and Mary Beth Drechsler, Sacha Dodson and Karen Abbamonte, who were located at stops in Frederick County.
The fact that those five people volunteered their time to help the team succeed impressed Kretzer and the others, even though it was difficult to tell when they passed each other through the nighttime hours.
“It’s just amazing somebody would want to go out at 10:30 at night in the pouring down rain and stay there until 3:30 in the morning when they didn’t have to,” Kretzer said.
For complete results and race details, visit www.ragnarrelay.com. For race photos, visit www.tristaterunnur.com.