WATERBURY – Sunday’s 38th running of the Leaf Peepers races drew a field of 213 runners for the half marathon and 147 athletes for the 5k. Runners tested their speed and endurance on the relatively flat courses along River Road in Duxbury. Ideal temperatures in the 50s led to fast times.
George Aitken, from Waterbury, and Jennifer Moltz, from Hyde Park, took home top honors in the half marathon. Their respective times were 1:21:19 and 1:30:39.
Livingston Ottman, from New York state, won the women’s division of the 5k race. Her time was 20:21.
James Randon, from Rhode Island, was the men’s 5k division winner, in 17:01. The 2017 Yale University grad competed in cross country and track and field for the Bulldogs. He has an indoor mile personal best time of 3:58.85.
Colton Niemi of Greensboro was the fastest half marathon finisher from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. He completed the 13.1-mile course in 1:35:33 to place 16th overall.
Niemi graduated from Hazen Union in 2020. He competed for the Wildcats in soccer and golf. In 2014, he won the M8-13 age group at the Caspian Challenge 5k race. After graduating from Vermont Technical College in May, he started running to keep fit.
Niemi’s mom, Wanda Niemi, is a veteran of the Leaf Peepers 5k. When she mentioned to her son that she was planning to run this year’s 5k race, he expressed interest in the half marathon. In the weeks preceding the race, he gradually upped his training runs from three miles to ten miles.
Wanda Niemi trained for the 5k race by running two or three times a week and doing some track work. Her time of 31:19 placed fifth of 13 women in the F50-59 age group.
Amanda Michaud, from Marshfield, finished the half marathon in 1:48:13. She placed 11th of 45 runners in the F30-39 age group. Emma Kopecky and Kathleen Swigon, both from Plainfield, also went the distance. Their respective times were 2:09:28 and 2:42:39.
Tim Hogeboom and Elizabeth McCarthy, a well-seasoned running couple from Walden, completed the half marathon for the second consecutive year.
Hogeboom, 71, was the oldest male runner. He placed in the top half of all finishers and won the M70-79 age group. His time was 1:57:10. McCarthy, 69, took nine minutes off her 2021 time. She finished the race in 2:16:23 and placed second in the F60-69 age group.
“The weather was perfect and the wind wasn’t much of an issue,” said McCarthy. “A really pretty run with the light on the river and golden leaves.”
“I had no expectations for the Leaf Peeper Half,” Hogeboom said. “Nearly all our previous training this year focused on shorter distances. Only recently had we started incorporating runs of eight miles and more in our preparations. My mindset was to start conservatively and see how I felt.”
“After a drink of water at an aid station halfway through the race, I started hearing footsteps behind me. It sounded like someone was right on my heels. I just ran my race, slowing on the uphills and speeding up when I could. Whatever I did, I couldn’t shake whoever was shadowing me. At one point, I slowed a little to let him or her pass, but nothing changed. Finally, I snuck a look behind me. There was no one there! The crumpled cup that I’d drank from drummed with each of my steps in one of the cup holders in my runner’s belt. I laughed at myself. I’d been competing with a phantom.”
Ultra-Runners Tackle Three Mountain Race
BOLTON VALLEY ̶ Temperatures were in the mid-30s for the 7:30 a.m. start of the Bolton Valley Three Peaks Mountain Race on October 2. The 88 adventurous runners didn’t take long to get warmed up. The 20k course included a vertical elevation gain of roughly 4,000 feet.
Ricky McLain, from Cabot, placed 13th in the men’s division. He covered 12.4 miles and three summits in 2:08:11. McLain ran conservatively on the rugged trails covered with rocks, mud, roots, and leaves.
Twinfield cross country runner Ethan Parrish placed 35th of 46 finishers in the men’s division. He completed the course in 2:35:26.
New Date for Kingdom Challenge
LYNDONVILLE – ST. JOHNSBURY ̶ The Kingdom Challenge has moved up a couple of weeks on the schedule to October 15. Organizers hope to increase the odds of good weather for the race.
The rigorous point-to-point half marathon course runs from Lyndonville to St. Johnsbury. Along the way, runners climb 1,440 feet and descend 1,590 feet. Sixty percent of the course is on dirt roads.
The half marathon begins at 8:30 a.m. The 5k race starts at 9:30 a.m. The 5k race features an out-and-back course starting and ending at St. Johnsbury Middle School. Race information is available at thekingdomchallenge.com.