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More Magazine Marathon & Half-Marathon Draw Thousands of Women; Dramatic Finish in the Half

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04/06/2008 - 19:08

April 7, 2008
From Running USA wire / NYRRC

NEW YORK - (April 6, 2008) - The More Magazine Marathon and Half-Marathon are women-only races: The marathon is the only marathon exclusively for women over 40, while in the half-marathon, each woman over 40 teams up with another woman of any age, with their times added together after the race. This cooperative element, and perhaps the absence of men's more overt competitive attitude, make these races seem unusually friendly: The finish line is more a place for smiles, hugs, and group cheers than for fist-pumps, chest-thumps and guttural roars of triumph.

However, as Caitlin Tormey said afterward, a race is a race.

On Sunday, Tormey, 24, a Manhattanite and member of the ZAP Fitness team, was running the half-marathon as a final test two weeks before the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon in Boston on April 20. She planned to run the More Half-Marathon at around the pace she hopes to maintain in Boston, but she couldn't have predicted that this pace would put her about 50 yards behind the race's leaders, Jody Hawkins, 41, a four-time national track and road race champion, and Susan Loken, 44, who had won the previous three More Magazine Marathons and holds the course record at 2:45:35. Loken, too, was preparing for the Trials in Boston and had chosen to run the shorter distance this year.

Hawkins, from Frisco, TX, and Loken, from Phoenix, AZ, were running as a team, and they led the race together throughout two windy, hilly laps of Central Park's loop drive plus a final mile to the famous ING New York City Marathon finish line near Tavern on the Green. They finished strongly, dropping their pace to just under six minutes for each of the final three miles. But Tormey was moving even faster.

As the two leaders, still side-by-side, strode down the final stretch, cheered warmly by deep crowds on both sides of West Drive, Loken offered a hand to Hawkins to make a symbolic finish-line acknowledgment of their teamwork. And precisely as Hawkins grasped Loken's outstretched hand, Caitlin Tormey found a final gear and flew past both of them.

There were less than 100 yards left. Loken reacted as any long-time champion would and sprinted after Tormey. Hawkins responded a moment later. The three women threw their last reserves into the finish and Tormey edged Loken by a single second, 1:20:13 to 1:20:14.

Hawkins crossed the line a few steps later in 1:20:16. "It was bittersweet," she said as she walked through the finish chute with Loken. "We didn't know she was coming." Their team did win the team event by about six minutes over Tormey and her partner, Gordon Bakoulis, 47, who took sixth overall in 1:26:44.

Loken clearly enjoyed the race, which she, like Tormey, had run as a pre-Trials fitness gauge. Did she mind losing today after the race's rather interesting final yards? "'Interesting' is a good word for it," she said. "We never saw her, so it was a surprise."

"I was pacing off them the whole way - they were great," said Tormey, still looking fresh while surrounded by reporters with cameras and microphones. "I kept trying to figure out when to make a move, but the course is tough - there's always another hill."

Loken had an extra interest in seeing who would be her successor as More Marathon champion: She had coached Susie Meyers-Kennedy, 42, through a comeback from childbirth, and now her athlete was fighting for a top three spot. Loken's course record 2:45 ticked past . . . the three-hour mark neared, then slipped by . . . and within another minute the announcer's voice heralded the leader's arrival: "It's Stephanie Hodge of the New York Harriers!"

Hodge, clearly euphoric, crossed the line with a balletic leap in 3:01:50. In November of 2007, she'd won top female masters honors at the ING New York City Marathon, but this, pun recognized, was more. "It's the highlight of my career, definitely!" she exclaimed, looking like she could run another lap or two. "I don't mind that I was over three hours - I didn't expect an extraordinary time. I had to run strategically."

Meyers-Kennedy had run most of the race in second place, but had been passed by two women in the later stages. She fought back, reclaimed second place, followed Hodge across the line in 3:04:33, and was immediately embraced by Loken. "This is my second race since having my baby," she said, unable to stop smiling. "I've trained for seven months. Susan's helped me so much."

Kelly Keeler-Ramacier, a pre-race favorite, had made a bid for the win but suffered from leg cramping in the final stages. She held third place (3:04:50) with a fierce effort and collapsed just past the line. "Aw, I'm okay," she drawled as she was helped through the finish area. "It's happened to me before." Her modesty didn't obscure the bravery that she'd exhibited in finishing a marathon in third place with her legs almost refusing to move.

Hodge, 42, is a native Canadian and an environmental policy analyst for the United Nations. She enjoys marathons so much that she runs what most experts would consider too many of them; between her New York race in November and this one, she'd already fit in a third place 3:14:31 at the Bermuda Marathon in January. "If you're having issues in your life, you should train for a marathon," she said. "It gives you strength and self-confidence, and when you finish, you can do anything."

Her sentiments were echoed by countless women among the more than 6,000 finishers at the fifth edition - about a thousand more than in 2007. "This is my first half-marathon," said Gabriela Piccinini, 43, of Purchase, NY, who finished in 2:05. "I was afraid I wouldn't finish, but I felt great. It was so hard but I had so much fun." Elizabeth Canale, 57, and Margie Fajardo, 44, both of Brooklyn, ran as a team. "This race is the best," said Canale." We're both over 40 and we love it. We're going to keep coming back."

5th More Magazine Marathon & Half-Marathon New York, NY, Sunday, April 6, 2008

1) Stephanie Hodge, 42, CAN / NY, 3:01:50
2) Susie Meyers-Kennedy, 42, AZ, 3:04:33
3) Kelly Keeler-Ramacier, 46, MN, 3:04:50

1) Caitlin Tormey (NC), 1:20:13
2) Susan Loken, 44, AZ, 1:20:14
3) Jody Hawkins, 41, TX, 1:20:16

Complete overall and team results at: