Montgomery County Road Runners Club Presents the 16th Annual Pike's Peek 10K Race

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Always wanted to run down Rockville Pike? Next year you can!

Gusting winds blew away the storm-roiled sky early Sunday the 17th as more than 2500 runners gathered at the start of the 16th Annual Pike’s Peek 10K race. Hosted by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC), nearly the entire course followed Rockville Pike, starting at Shady Grove Metro with the finish line set in front of White Flint Mall.

While waiting for the last of the registered participants to pick up their race numbers, the anxious hoards of people rippled in constant activity; stretching, jogging in place and taking short runs to the parking lot and back. Their anticipation could almost be felt in junction with the crisp breeze.

Despite the surprisingly chilly temperatures, barely topping 50ºF, the participants were in good spirits, joking that they were only running for the festival and food awaiting them at the finish line. The MCRRC organizes this “post-race festival” which is lavish enough to help make this race one of the most popular of the 30 races the club hosts each year.

On its official website, the MCRRC proudly states its fame as “the largest, most active running club in the nation”. It welcomes runners of all shapes and sizes, from long-time runners to beginners who want to build up their stamina. The club holds regular training sessions for its members, some of which take place on Montgomery College Rockville’s running track.

Any Montgomery College student, no matter their level of experience or fitness, can become a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, whose mission is “to promote and encourage running”. In addition to becoming part of a supportive running group within their community, members receive discounts to various sports-related establishments, and have access to all the races offered throughout the year.

Hundreds of runners crowded thickly behind the starting line above which a decorative balloon arch blew wildly. At the signal from the officials, the first wave of runners burst into motion. A hearty cheer went up from the sparse crowd of supporters, many of which had already spread down the 6.21 mile stretch of Rockville Pike. The runners were released in consecutive “waves” numbering around 500 people each to spread out the masses of participants, based on their pace. The skill level ranged from professional runners, who travel to races all over the nation, to those who run simply to keep fit and enjoy the excitement of the race.


The starting line was left in the dust.
The starting line was left in the dust. | Source

The start line was on Redland Road which runners followed west for a quarter mile before hitting Rockville Pike, which they would follow southward for the duration. Advertised as a downward-sloping race, more than one racer affirmed that that wasn’t the case; while the course may appear rather flat, there was one particularly “big uphill around mile four”.

The line of runners stretched down the often traffic-clogged pike. Water tables were set up at intervals and, just beyond them, discarded cups were scattered and crushed on the road by a progression of thousands of feet. Orange cones directed the racers down the northbound side of the pike, allowing a single lane for drivers. As they peered out their car windows at the succession of runners, some appeared irate at the disruption of their route, while others honked and waved in a show of support.


The finish line!
The finish line! | Source
The band played as runners arrived.
The band played as runners arrived. | Source

Either side of the road at the finish line was packed with cheering families and friends. Some race participants flew across the finish line, while others kept their steady pace; every single runner looked elated to be done. The constant stream of participants crossing the finish line drew on for more than an hour.

Meanwhile, the festival in the parking lot of White Flint Mall got started. A band set up on a small stage played a lot of familiar, upbeat tunes while the finished racers converged upon the food tents.

After a while the race results were announced: the male category first place runner was Julius Kogo from Chapel Hill, NC with a race time of 28 minutes and 6 seconds, and a 4 minute, 31 second mile. Risper Gesabwa was the first female to cross the finish line at 32 minutes and 7 seconds. Her minute-per-mile pace was 5:10. Awards were presented up on the stage to the first 10 men and first 10 women; the 1st place winners each received $1000 and the following 9 received between $750 and $300 in falling increments based on their placement. The first three runners to place within their age bracket received awards of 75, 50 and 25 dollars, respectively.

There were plenty of people left over who hadn’t come intending to take home a prize, in fact, many felt they had won, in their own way: for Brian Pike of Derwood, MD this was his 6th year in the Pike’s Peek 10K and each year he managed to beat his previous personal record. Another cheerful, runner named Thomas Young piped up, “It’s nice to burn a little fat today, instead of gasoline!”

The crowd continued to eat and enjoy the music into the sunny afternoon. It was an event to remember; and one to look forward to (and perhaps train in preparation for!) in 2012.

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