Esther Erb of Richmond, Va., was the first female finisher, crossing in 1:36:06.
Late in the race, Esther Erb began feeling the tug of all those miles, all those hills and all that humidity.At about the 13-mile mark, she touched her skin and felt coolness. She knew she was dehydrated. She knew her pace was not up to par."It was very slow,'' said Erb. "It was really pretty hot out there. I was pretty surprised.''Like any tough-minded distance runner, the 26-year-old Erb persevered through the full 15 miles and, running in her first Charleston Distance Run, won the female division in one hour, 36 minutes and six seconds Saturday morning at University of Charleston Stadium.Erb, a Richmond, Va., native who lives and trains at ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, N.C., is a marathon specialist and hopes to qualify for the 2016 Olympic team. She approached Saturday's race as part of an endless regimen of workouts and races designed to help fulfill her Olympic hopes.She expected, however, to average perhaps 5:55 per mile but instead averaged just 6:25."That's pretty bad,'' she said. "That's like a training-run pace for me. The 5:55s became 6:20s or even 6:30s, but that's just how it is. It was an effort run.''Erb, who has run a marathon in 2:37, led virtually the whole way, but Emily Chaney of Huntington, last year's female winner, stayed within a minute but faltered in the final miles and finished second in 1:37:56."I'm happy with it, just because I've had such a crazy week,'' said Chaney. "To be that close to a pro runner, I'm happy with my results. I almost caught up to her on the hills and was real close on the downhill.''
Chaney, 30, an East Tennessee State graduate and former Fayetteville resident, resumed work as a Marshall graduate assistant in cardiovascular rehabilitation this week. She also suffered a slight injury. "I've had a calf strain since Tuesday,'' she said, "but I didn't know if that was going to flare up or not. It actually held up fine, but it tightened up at about mile 11. I was limping in the last three miles or so. It was really tight. I could barely walk. I had to go get ice right after the race.''Chaney, who won last year in 1:35:54, has run in races for the past three weekends and, as a graduate assistant, spends most of the day on her feet. She felt the effects on Saturday."My legs felt like bricks today,'' she said. "But I'm sure [Erb] has her struggles too, training and all that.''Erb's struggles mostly involved the weather."I think it was more the heat than anything else that was affecting me today on the last stretch,'' said Erb. "It was really humid today, but at least the sun wasn't shining.''
Allison Cox of Scott Depot was third in 1:46:14.Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com