CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At first, Michael Capriolo's plans for last year's Labor Day weekend seemed a little empty."I was looking for something for that weekend,'' Capriolo recalled recently.Keep in mind that Capriolo is a confirmed member of the road-running community and, in making plans to fill the weekend void, his thoughts inevitably turn to a good, hard footrace anywhere within a day's drive of his Akron, Ohio, home.Browsing the Internet, he learned that a 15-mile race would take place a few days later in Charleston and that the race appeared to fit nicely into his marathon preparation.
"I stumbled upon it,'' he said.He made last-minute plans, drove down I-77 and, all things considered, his debut in the Charleston Distance Run went well. He finished third in one hour, 25 minutes, 51 seconds.He said it was enjoyable - a relative term in the running world - and he plans to try it again on Saturday morning, though this time he's more familiar with the course and will adjust his plans accordingly. "This year,'' he said, "I'll have a little better strategy as far as how to run the race. Mainly, I'm just going to go out a little more controlled.''Amid high humidity last year, Capriolo stayed close to the leaders, Jeff Weiss and Bryan Morseman, for the first three or four miles but suddenly found himself unable to keep pace through South Hills.Once he returned to the more comfortable flats of downtown and the East End en route to the Laidley Field finish, it was too late to challenge Weiss and Morseman, who placed first and second, respectively.The 29-year-old Capriolo says he's in better shape this year, having averaged more than 100 miles of weekly training since early July, and he knows now he must make allowances for the five-mile jaunt through South Hills."The middle five miles are challenging to say the least,'' he said. "That was one thing about last year's race; my pace dramatically slowed down. It's going to slow down [on the hills] no matter what, but I would just like to run a more consistent effort through the whole race. I'm not saying I won't go out with the leaders, but I'm definitely going to run the first five a little more conservatively just to maintain my pace a little better through those middle five miles.''The Charleston Distance Run, he said, should be good training for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, where he hopes to continue his improvement in the 26.2-mile distance.Two years ago in the New York City Marathon, he set a personal best of 2:29:52 to place 47th out of 46,795 runners. In January of this year, he set another personal best of 2:25:18 in the Houston Marathon, trimming more than four minutes off his NYC time.The Kent State graduate hopes to run Chicago in 2:22 and, if all goes well, compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon trials.
BRIEFLY: The 15-mile distance run, as well as the accompanying 5-kilometer race, will begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on Kanawha Boulevard at the Capitol. The non-competitive 5K and 10K walks will start at the same time and same starting line. All runners and walkers will finish at Laidley Field. ... About a dozen running-minded U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Southeast Asia will do their own version of the race from thousands of miles away. Running at the Air Force base on Saturday, some will run the 15-mile race and others will do the 5-K event. The Distance Run committee voted to send them finishers' medals and T-shirts.Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.