Hometown favorite dominates women’s race.
Providence, RI – The rain kept falling, but the party kept going as the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Providence Half Marathon kicked off this morning with more than 7,000 entrants. Despite a constant downpour throughout the day, an enthusiastic crowd of runners stayed long after the finish, dancing and celebrating to the familiar sounds of Sugar Ray with the majestic State House in the background.
Providence College alum Kim Smith ran on familiar streets, winning the women’s race easily in 1:11:54. Running with the lead men’s pack for the first several miles, she eventually dropped back and continued on her own with no competition in sight. A two-time New Zealand Olympian, Smith holds the U.S. all-comers record for the 13.1-mile distance with her 1:07:36 clocking at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in February. Smith admitted that she is still trying to mentally overcome a disappointing finish at this past April’s Boston Marathon, but said today was a good start as she looks toward the ING New York City Marathon this fall.
“This was not an easy course, but surprisingly flat for Providence, so it was a good workout for sure,” she said. “It’s great to run at home in Providence and I enjoy running Rock ‘n’ Roll races. This was my first real training run for New York. The conditions weren’t ideal because of the rain, but I had fun.”
Tezata Dengersa , 31, of Turkey came in behind Smith at 1:18:56, followed by Jessica Snyder of Rochester, New York.
In the men’s race, a pack of five stayed together until mile 7 when Ethiopians Kumsa Adugna Megersa and Tesfaye Assefa Dube pulled ahead together. Best friends and roommates in Bronx, New York, the two train with the Westside YMCA. Megersa would take the win at 1:07:32, with Dube trailing by 18 seconds at 1:07:50.
Third place in the men’s race went to Providence local Patrick Moulton, who works at a local running store and decided to run the day before on a whim.
“I had never run a Rock ‘n’ Roll so I thought I might as well,” he said. Moulton attended Providence College with Kim Smith and led the men’s pack for several miles before finding himself jockeying with 4th place finisher Chris Zablocki behind Megersa and Dube. “I was just trying to run my own race. It was awesome to do so well at home.”
Moulton qualified for the Olympic Trials last year in 2:15:35 and is looking toward the Hartford Marathon, which he has won twice.
The inaugural race honored former Governor Bruce Sundlun, who recently passed away and was integral in bringing the event to town. The winners of both the men’s and women’s races received the Governor Bruce Sundlun Memorial Trophy, a tradition that will continue. Runners also honored him with a moment of silence at the start line.
His son, Tracy Sundlun, a senior vice president at Competitor Group and one of the founders of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, said his father would have been proud.
“He wasn’t here in person, but no question he was here in spirit, though given all the rain, I wonder if I didn’t get him a good enough Christmas present,” he joked. “He would have been thrilled to see thousands of people running through downtown Providence and so many from out of town visiting and supporting such a great city that he loved dearly.”
Also among the competitors were Providence police detectives Mike Naylor and Louie Stravato, who traveled 40,000 miles around the globe on the CBS show “The Amazing Race.” They trained with Olympian and Boston Marathon champ Geoff Smith and finished in 2:14:00 and 2:46:41, respectively.
Former Boston Red Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling was on the sidelines, watching as his wife Shonda finished in 2:21:52. Other stars at the start line included “Biggest Loser” contestants and country star Dan Evans and his mother Jackie. Dan finished in 3:19:12, with Jackie following in 3:44:45.
The second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Providence Half Marathon will return in 2012 on a date yet to be determined.