A winter tradition continues in Amherst Jones Group Realtors 10-Miler: Reilly leads from start, Johnson wins in a crapshoot

Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nasty weather canceled races along the coast on Sunday, but in Amherst the threat of snow merely postponed the annual Jones Group 10-Miler from morning to afternoon.

As they have done every year since 1975, a crowd of nearly 500 runners gathered at the starting line by Amherst High School wearing tights, long sleeves, knit caps and the good-natured grin of the hardcore athlete, ready to slog through ten of the hilliest miles in New England racing.

Fastest of the bunch were former UMass track and cross-country runner Kevin Johnson and Bryant University coach Stephanie Reilly, who won the men’s and women’s top prizes by leading the race practically from start to finish. Johnson, 24, of West Lebanon, N.H., had help; he and his former UMass teammate Sean Duncan, 23, of Gardner, ran the first mile in front of a pack of a dozen, but by two miles the pack thinned out, and when Johnson and Duncan surged past the three-mile mark at the beginning of the long grind up Shutesbury Road, no one else stayed with them.

Halfway through the course, Johnson appeared to be distancing himself from Duncan, but then, abruptly, his intestines refused to accommodate themselves to the aesthetics of sport, forcing Johnson to stop by the side of the road for a moment. That was enough time for Duncan to catch up. “I had to stop at five and a half miles, and again at seven,” said Johnson. However, when he recovered, weighing several ounces less, he realized he had the strength to win. “Sean is so good,” he continued, “but he was definitely tired.”

The two were side by side at eight miles, but Johnson re-established his on the North East Street hill and maintained it on Strong Street, striding to the finish at Wildwood Elementary School in 51 minutes 48 seconds. Duncan finished just 14 seconds back, in 52:02. Eric MacKnight, 24, of Clifton Park, N.Y., finished third in 52:34, followed by Jason Ayr, 28, of Easthampton (52:42) and Brennan Bonner, 28, of Boston (52:44).

Reilly, 35, ran unchallenged. She looked rugged and confident, finishing in 58:40 and placing 55th overall, but she hardly considered the race a walk-through. “This course is very, very difficult!” she said. Having moved from her native Ireland to the U.S. to compete as an undergraduate at Providence College, she considers herself mainly a track athlete, and she found the hills, and the footing alongside Atkins Reservoir, a challenge. “I’m a toe-runner,” she explained, “and I really struggled today on the dirt. I ran a 16-mile race in Derry (N.H.) in January, and I think this race is much harder.”

Helen Dinan, of Bellingham, finished second in 1:02:23. Gretchen Speed, of Brookline placed third in 1:02:46; Katie Gravel, of Peabody (1:03:15) and Tammie Robie of Milford (1:04:02) were fourth and fifth. The area’s regulars found Sunday’s mixture of rain, snow and light breeze about what they have come to expect in this race, which is a test of how their training has gone through the winter. “This course is the same as it’s always been,” said Ed Parrot of Amherst.

“It’s fair, but you have to be really fit or it gets you.” Parrot, 42, who in his 20s could run these ten miles in as little as 55 minutes, was content with a 72-minute finish on Sunday. “I’m happy it’s done,” said his wife, Dana Parrot, 43, a former women’s winner here, who this time placed third in the women’s master’s group in one hour 12 minutes six seconds. Ruthie Ireland, also of Amherst and a season trail-runner, pronounced Sunday’s conditions perfect.

“Today was awesome!” she exclaimed. “Some snow, some wind, enough to make it exciting. Around the reservoir, some years it’s icy, but today it was just muddy.”

Joseph Navas, 42, of North Eastham, won the men’s master’s division in 55:42, followed by Binney Mitchell, 44, of Burlington, Vt. (56:46), and 41-year-old Amherst College coach Erik Nedeau (57:12). Nedeau, whose best distances are 800 and 1500 meters, was part of a team that three weeks ago set a masters world record in the 4 x 800 meter relay. Top female master was Christin Doneski, 41, of Hopkinton in 1:05:32. Second was Nancy Dunbar, 41, of Hanover N.H. (1:11:35). Maria Servin, 50, of Middleboro, won the women’s 50-59-year age group in 1:07:40. The men’s 50-59-year division was a battle, as Michael Cooney, 51, of Chelmsford, edged Paul Doe, 53, of Derry N.H., 1:00:10 to 1:00:11. Winners in the 60-plus division were Rich Larsen of Shelburne (1:04:23) and Vicki Miller, 60, of Durham, N.H. (1:29:21).


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