Jeff Weiss needed to test his ailing foot and the 42nd annual Charleston Distance Run provided the perfect venue.
After all, the event billed as “America’s only 15-mile race’’ is just a short drive down Interstate 77 from his transplanted home in Ravenswood and after a summer interrupted by injury, the work on the hilly course would do him some good.
The Ravenswood Middle School health teacher passed with flying colors in winning his second CDR men’s title Saturday morning, conquering the challenging course in hot and muggy conditions in 1 hour, 22 minutes and 36 seconds.
Sarah Glenn of Roanoke, Va., competed in her first Distance Run and captured the women’s race, finishing sixth overall, in 1:42:12.
The Kenyans who dominated last year’s edition and have been a staple of past CDRs didn’t participate. They finished 1-2-3 in the men’s race in 2013 and 1-2 in the women’s division.
The 28-year-old Weiss, who won the 2012 Distance Run and was fifth last year, continued his preparations for the upcoming U.S. Olympic marathon trials in February 2016 in Los Angeles. He qualified in March for the trials at a half-marathon in Virginia Beach, Va. Weiss also finished eighth a few weeks ago in the Parkersburg Half-Marathon.
“That was my last big race,’’ said the 6-foot-2 Weiss of the Virginia Beach event. “I took some down time and all of the sudden, my foot kind of blew up on me about late April.
“I took all of May and I’ve been building up this summer. I used this as a tester for my foot. I also tested it out two weeks ago in Parkersburg and passed that test and passed today’s test, too. This is my second hometown now, so it’s nice to come here and see some local people you know.’’
Weiss was a little off his 2012 winning time (1:21:14), but was pleased with the results in the grueling conditions. Temperatures were in the 70s at the start of the race and only got hotter under sunny skies.
“I was trying to go out and just be conservative,’’ he said. “Not blow up or anything and use it as a workout and run some pretty consistent splits, which I did the first 12 [miles].
“I really did for the last three, too, but it just wasn’t on pace. This heat is brutal. I just feel awful, cramped up and everything. The heat’s my least favorite to run in. The heat plays a role if you’re a U.S. Olympic qualifier or just trying to finish the race.’’
Jason Pyles of Green Bank, the CDR’s 2010 winner, was runner-up in the men’s division in a time of 1:30:52, and was followed by Bryan Harvey of Leon (1:37:03.5), Nick Bias of Charleston (1:37:55.7) and Garrett Burnett of Cincinnati (1:41.32.1).
Weiss pulled away from the field and never looked back, building a more than six-minute lead on Pyles at the 10-mile mark, en route to a nearly eight-minute victory.
“I got a side cramp right at 12 miles and just kind of cruised the rest of it,’’ said Weiss, who is originally from Washington, Pa., and competed at Slippery Rock (Pa.). “I haven’t really done a training run of 15 miles. I got to 12 and my fitness kind of crapped out on me anyway.’’
Weiss plans to compete in a 10-mile race in Pittsburgh in November and the U.S. Half-Marathon Championships in Houston in January.
“That’ll be a good tester against a lot of guys that’ll be at the trials,’’ said Weiss of the Houston event.
Glenn, who competed one year in indoor track at Virginia Tech, led the women’s race from the outset and was never challenged.
Tammy Slusser of Monroeville, Pa., finished second in 1:47:38.8, followed by Allison Meadows of Charleston (1:52:22.9), Alyssa Anderson of Hurricane (1:55:40.7) and Sarah Strunk of Durham, N .C. (1:58:18.2) to round out the top five.
“Hot,’’ smiled Glenn in summing up her experience. “I enjoyed it. It wasn’t too bad. I really liked it, running the hills and the neighborhood at the top is really beautiful to run through and there were lots of people out, which made it fun. I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. I thought I could finish in the top five. At the beginning when I took the lead, I felt pretty good and I thought, ‘Maybe.’ ’’
Glenn said she was spurred to attempt the Distance Run by her upcoming birthday (which is today) and the fact that her husband was competing in a 100-mile mountain bike race in the Shenandoah Forest in Virginia this weekend.
“To have a great experience like this, sure, I’ll be back,’’ she said. “It’s well organized and a nice course. We had a great time.’’
Josh Grear of South Charleston won the men’s division of the accompanying 5-kilometer in 18:19 and Jessica Swisher of Charleston took the women’s race in 20:12.9. Carol Keaton of Charleston led the 5-K walk (36:35.5) and Randall Flanagan of Charleston was tops in the 10-K walk (54:07.4). ... The men’s and women’s winners of the 15-miler collected $550 each in prize money. ... There were 520 runners who finished the 15-mile race and 493 who completed the 5-K. The 5-K (140 finishers) 10-K (70) walks were also well represented.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.