Please share your thoughts and comments with us about your experience at the first ever All Women's Half Marathon in York Maine.
793 Women & 1 Lucky Guy Compete in the 1st Annual
Maine Coast Half Marathon
Excerps from John Stevens, special to the Coast Star
York, ME: Sunday, September 23, and a beautiful sunny Fall day in one of the most charming coastal villages in southern Maine served as the perfect introduction of the 1st Annual Maine Coast ½ Marathon. This “all women & one lucky guy*” race was the inspiration of Mike and Linda St. Laurent, founders and owners of Loco Sports, Inc., Newmarket, NH, a designer/manufacturer of Loco running shoes and a major sponsor of many New England running events as well as co-race directors for this event.
A pre-race pasta dinner was held Saturday evening at Fosters Restaurant in York and attended by approximately 75 race entrants along with members of York Middle and High School girl’s track team and coaches - - - and, “one lucky guy”.
Keynote speaker for the evening was Kathrine Switzer, best known as the woman who challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon in 1967 and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event creating an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition. The author of best selling “Marathon Woman”, as well as several other books and articles on woman’s running, Kathrine gave an inspiring talk keyed toward all women runners in general, but she really focused on the younger women and especially the students from York High School and Middle School Track Team.
“40 years ago they tried to throw me out of the Boston Marathon because women were considered too frail to run a marathon. At that time the longest event sanctioned for women was 800 meters (twice around the track). Today there are more women runners than men entering races; 52% to be exact as of 2006. If this could happen in the past 40 years just think what the next 40 years could bring” was the message Kathrine drove home to a rapt audience.
Kathrine Switzer has dedicated her career to creating opportunities and equal sport status for women instituting programs for over 1 million women in 27 countries. Her efforts have been instrumental in the successful inclusion of the women’s marathon as an official event in the Olympic Games.
There were 793 women finishers - - - and, oh yes, that 1 “lucky guy”- - - representing 24 states as well as Canada and 1 from Sidney, Australia, making the 1st Annual Maine Coast ½ Marathon a true international event. 280 finishers were classified as “newbies” meaning that this was the first ½ marathon they ever entered and as such they were given special recognition.
Leslie Hocking, 26, from Dover, NH was the overall winner with a time of 1:23:02 (6:20 per mile pace). Leslie led the pack all the way from start to finish with a 2:00 lead at the 2-½ mile point. It wasn’t until mile 10 that anyone came close to her and that is when Nicole Hagobien, 32, from Hadley, MA threatened. As it turned out Leslie crossed the finish line with 1 minute to spare with Nicole coming in at 1:24:01. “I thought maybe I went out a little too fast. I never heard any footsteps behind me until around mile 10 then I had to pick up the pace again. I’m tired”, said a very happy Leslie Hocking as Linda St. Laurent from Loco Sports, Inc. presented her with the winner’s medal.
The idea for an all women event is not new, but the idea of allowing “one lucky guy” to enter is. Generally what happens, according to Mike St. Laurent, is that when race registrations start coming in, even though the race is advertised as an all women’s race, several guys will intentionally or inadvertently attempt to sign up sometimes causing problems. Mike credits his wife Linda, with coming up with the perfect solution; hold a lottery for the men wherein they can submit a race application along with $10.towards the right to run the race. And, all proceeds from this lottery would go to the York School District to be awarded to a deserving graduating York Girl’s Track Team runner. As of race start it looked like an estimated $3,000. was raised.
180 men entered this pre-race competition and the winner was Eric Vermilya, 47, a full-time student completing his degree in finance at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, and living in New York City. While a number of hopeful “lucky guys” bought several chances Eric bought only 1 on a whim, along with pressure from several of the women runners in his local running club, the 700 member New York Flyers, the largest running club in NYC, which Eric considers his second family. “I just about fell off my chair when Mike St. Laurent called me to tell me I won”, said Eric. Although Eric has run 9 marathons since 2003 including Boston, Chicago, New York, and both Zurich and Madrid internationally, he’s never raced in Maine before. “It’s so beautiful up here. I love it and I’ll come back again.” Eric was very emphatic that he didn’t want to be the focal point of this all women’s event. “I don’t want to take away from what should be their day. I just feel very honored to be a part of this, to be the lucky guest” Eric pointed out.