ALBANY--Weekend warriors stayed home Sunday. Or, at the very least, they stayed away from the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club Winter Marathon at the University at Albany.
“Let’s see,” said Niskayuna’s Steve Becker, who finished fifth in the 26.2-mile race, “it’s Feb. 26 in Albany, N.Y., and we’re running a marathon. Yeah, this is an event for hardcore runners.”
The 33rd annual event featured a full marathon with 55 registrants and a team race. Competitors came from as far away as Tennessee and Ontario.
It included five loops around UAlbany’s campus, which, thanks to 30-mph wind gusts and wide open roads, resembled a wind tunnel.
“When you’re running west, it’s very windy,” said Josh Merlis, who ran the lead 9.2-mile leg for the first-place ARE Renegades. His Albany Running Exchange teammates were Eamon Dempsey (5.7 miles) and Chris Chromczak (11.3 miles)m and the team finished in 2 hours, 38 minutes, 28 seconds. “Then, when you’re running east, it’s like you’re running east, it’s like you’re in Bermuda, relatively speaking. It’s tough to dress for because it’s cold one way, warm the other.”
Women’s winner Laura Bleakley of Rochester (3:31:31) agreed, to a point.
“The wind was brutal,” said the 36-year-old mother of three. “Am I whining or did you guys think it was cold?”
A pack of runners, all finished with the race and walking with Bleakley, just nodded. They did nothing to delay reaching the warmth of UAlbany’s physical education building, and the soup and hot drinks waiting inside.
“But I enjoy a race like this more than a mega-marathon,” said Bleakley, an ultramarathoner who drove through a snowstorm Sunday morning to reach the Capital Region. “This is so much more personal. It’s a good way to keep my mileage up and meet people. It’s so much more fun to run a marathon with people than alone.”
Canton’s Dan Dominie continued to put his stamp on the winter marathon by winning it for the fifth time (only local runner Dale Keenan has more victories, with six between 1984 and 1991), and his approach is quite different from Bleakley’s.
“I live in the country,” said Dominie, 41 who won in 2:58:32. “I run by myself constantly, and I ran by myself today. It’s unlike the bigger marathons where there’s company the whole way.”
The solo nature of the winter marathon is a large part of the attraction for Dominie.
“When you’re by yourself, you work on your mental focus for all 26 miles,” he said. “If you get into a bad spot, you’re by yourself. If the running goes well, you’re by yourself. It’s a challenge.”