ROCK HALL — Jim Reid and Hannah Richardson made it look easy, overcoming the insanely hot and humid conditions and a solid field of challengers to successfully defend their Flat Five titles.
This is the third Flat Five win in as many years for the 57-year-old Reid of West Chester, Pa., who has a second home in Rock Hall.
Overall, he has won four of the last seven Fourth of July races.
Reid led the field of 78 finishers in 29 minutes, 10 seconds, which was 12 seconds faster than last year, but acknowledged that he was affected by the conditions.
“My legs got a little wobbly,” Reid said to race director Dennis Herrmann after he crossed the finish line in front of the town’s municipal building.
Richardson, 28, of Chestertown sprinted past Jay Silcox in the final 50 yards to finish second overall — and first among women — in 32:38. She bettered last year’s time by 48 seconds.
“It was hot, but I really felt strong the whole race,” said Richardson, who played soccer and ran track at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
She said familiarity with the course — the 2018 race was her Flat Five debut — also was a factor in her favor.
“I picked it up in the middle of the race and finished strongly,” said Richardson, who made a quick exit after the race to get to her summer job as the assistant camp director and water ski director at Echo Hill near Still Pond.
Everyone agreed that conditions were less than ideal for a nearly 5-mile race, even one that started at 8 a.m.
“I don’t remember it being this hot,” said Richard Cookerly of Chestertown, one of the “regulars” who makes the Flat Five a part of his Independence Day celebration.
How hot was it?
“I feel like a steamed vegetable,” said Laura Jacquette Mills, who ran track for coach Herrmann at Kent County High School.
KCHS classmates Mills of Columbia and Meghan Conaghan Straub of Silver Spring return every year to their hometown of Rock Hall for the July 4 holiday.
“I swear, a couple of times on Route 20, my vision wavered,” Straub said. “I’ve run this course 100 times, and it’s basically hell. You turn the corner (Beach Road at Gratitude) and it’s like, ‘Great, I get to run 2 miles on 20.’”
Even lifelong runner Herrmann, who has been race director since the Flat Five made its debut 38 years ago, acknowledged that it “was a tough day, very challenging.”
This year’s field was diverse, as has become the rule — a blend of longtime participants and newcomers who travel from near and far. Included in the mix were three members of KCHS’ 2018 cross country team: Cecil College-bound Daniel Mitzel, his twin brother Brandon and rising sophomore Sam Buckel.
The youngest finisher was Clay Hill, 9; the senior in the group was 76-year-old Earl Walborn.
As has become tradition, military veteran Charlie Wheatley ran the entire race carrying a large American flag.
The Flat Five initially was a 5-miler, but in 2014 the course was shortened when Herrmann moved the finish line from the center of town to alleviate the traffic tie-up that was becoming common as the race grew in popularity.
Charlie Scales, then a teenager, of Newtown Square, Pa. established the “new” course record of 26:58 in 2016. Natasha Bliss of San Diego, Calif. set the women’s record of 32:04 in 2015.
Herrmann, now retired after 40 years of teaching and coaching at Kent County High School, said it is heartwarming to reconnect with his former students and the regulars who return year after year.
Everyone seems to like the volunteer-run event that provides a safe and competitive course, a very reasonable entry fee of $15, and an old-fashioned leader board where runners’ names are posted with thumbtacks.
As the overall winners, Reid and Richardson each received cloth bags with the Rock Hall Flat Five insignia. The first-, second- and third-place finishers in various age groups also received prizes.
All runners received a commemorative T-shirt.
Java Rock coffeehouse and the Town of Rock Hall sponsor the race.
Prize-winners are listed here.
Overall male: Jim Reid, 29:10.
Overall female: Hannah Richardson, 32:38.
Junior male, under 20: Daniel Mitzel (fourth overall), 33:18; Adam Drover, 41:18; and Sam Buckel, 47:24.
Junior female, under 20: Alice Padula (22nd), 41:08.
Open men, 20 to 35: Jay Bucci (sixth), 34:42; Tom Lohr (eighth), 36:00; and Nick Sorenson, 37:37.
Open women, 20 to 35: Erin Thomson (fifth), 33:30; Haley Reid (seventh), 35:16; and Kim Penny 37:14.
Submaster men, 36 to 49: Jay Silcox (third), 32:45; Dave Sharp, 39:04; and Paul Sadeghi, 39:46.
Submaster women, 36 to 49: Laurie Themistos (ninth), 36:22; Jessica Sharp, 39:05; and Brandi Bliss, 39:19.
Master men, 50 and older: Mike Bucci (10th), 37:12; Mike Sorenson, 37:58; and Don Sparks, 40:27.
Master women, 50 and older: Brenda Ewing (30th), 44:17; Joanna Distasi, 45:37; and Christi Grabis, 45:52.