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Bitter Cold, High Winds Freeze Army Marathon Runners to the Core

TEMPLE—Two hours before the start of the Army Marathon and Half Marathon, the temps hovered in the low 70s and the air was dry with calm winds. But well before sunrise, the massive cold front dropped in from the north much earlier than expected and temps dropped 20 degrees as the winds began to howl to the tune of 30 mph.

Nobody was prepared for the arctic chill and most of the field of more than 1000 runners huddled up with each other in the starting corral to stay warm. Few had gloves and even fewer had long-sleeve shirts or tights.

At the half marathon in Temple, race organizers quickly decided to give out the post-race jackets at the start before the race even began.

Good move.

As both races progressed (the marathon went from Killeen to Temple, while the half took an out-and-back course from Temple), the temperatures continued to plummet and the winds picked up in ferocity, accompanied by freezing rain/sleet, numbing just about the entire field to the breaking point in the 22 degree windchill.

Even marathon winner—47-year-old Chuck Engle who is from Arlington, Virginia and walked across the finish line to win in a course record 2:47:01—thought long and hard about quitting several times. “After 10 miles, I thought about DNF’ing because of the cold. I’ve run in plenty of cold-weather races, but I just wasn’t prepared for these conditions,” said Engle who, like most of the field, wore just shorts and singlet. “It was brutal out there this morning.”

That it was.

Runners fought the wind all morning long, but the last four miles from Belton Lake and into Temple was on a long straightaway and gave somewhat of a reprieve as most of that was accompanied by either a cross wind or tail wind. The final turn to the finish (¾ mile) was straight into the teeth of the raging wind. And in that short stretch, the wind stood nearly everyone up and froze them right to their very core.

The medical tent was heated and many of the finishers of both the marathon and half marathon (including marathon winner Engle) were so frigid they had to warm up with blankets and hot water bottles. Julia Vegas of Buda, who finished third in the women’s division yesterday in 3:17:54, was shaking so uncontrollably in the medical tent under a pile of blankets that it took her a half hour to warm up before she could leave the tent.

Even Patrick Geary of Sheridan, Wyoming froze in the conditions, but still finished second in 2:50:07 with Pompilio Romero of Waco third in 3:00:05.

The women’s race was much closer. Maria Martinez of Ft. Worth powered through the wind and cold to win in 3:16:31, followed by Eva Contreras, also from Ft. Worth, in 3:16:48 and Vegas, who ran the Austin Marathon two weeks ago, held on for third.

Martinez, 37, who ran the Cowtown marathon last Sunday, drove down from Ft. Worth on Sunday morning along with the cold front and was better prepared for the frigid conditions than just about anyone else. She wore a hat, gloves, jacket and tights—and still froze.

“I knew it was going to be cold,” said Martinez, who dropped out of the first Army Marathon last year, “but I didn’t know it was going to be this cold. From mile 9 to 12, the wind was straight into us and tears were coming out of my eyes. I couldn’t even feel my face. Everything was numb, but I knew I just had to keep going.”

Top Austinite in the marathon was Murphy Reed (who grew up in Temple). Reed, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Friday set a marathon PR on Sunday of 3:19:58. For Reed, it was his first marathon PR in an astonishing 11 years of trying.

Other top times by Austin runners included Gabriel Trinidad (3:26:40), Joe Trachier (3:29:30), Max Rohleder (3:43:05) and Steve Schermerhorn (3:48:09). Top Austin woman in the marathon was Gina Fuller who ran 3:52:20 and was the second masters runner.

In the half marathon, Ben Kittinger of Temple won in 1:26:59 with Alex Levine of Harker Heights second in 1:27:17. But Austin’s trigal Natasha Van Der Merwe was third overall (and first woman) in 1:29:22.

Other Austin runners in the half included Brent Weber (the top masters runner) in 1:31:28, Lisa Bentley (of the US Army) who steadily moved up to finish second to Van Der Merwe in 1:33:30 and Nicole Crank who was fourth in 1:36:07 (though her chip time showed 1:32). Mark Enstone ran 1:41:44 to win his 50-59 age group as did Barry Peterson (1:42:31 in the 40-49) and Wish (1:47:26 in the 60-69). Kerry Ready was third in her 40-49 age group in 1:56:22 and Terry Wood was also second in her age group (50-59) in 2:05:15. Theresa Moody was also second in her age group (60-69) in 3:27:55.

Wish

About Wish

Bob “Wish” Wischnia has more than 30 years of running industry experience across publishing, retail, web, and race organization. An Arizona State University alum, Wischnia has been a runner virtually his entire life, still competing in track and road race competitions. And in the free time he’s not pounding the pavement? He’s swimming, cycling, and catching days on the green.