Howard County runners kick off the new year with a chilly 'prediction run'

Faye Weaver’s first day of the new year would put many people to shame.

The Ellicott City woman started 2018 wth a few early-morning hours at her job as an occupational therapist, took a break to run an 8-kilometer race in frigid weather, won a prize — then went back to work.

The work schedule was by design, but winning the Howard County Striders Prediction Run Race was “all by chance,” Weaver said.

Winners weren’t necessarily the fastest. Instead of trying to run fast, participants in the prediction run picked their own times to head out on the nearly 5-mile course weaving through Columbia’s Jeffers Hill and Phelps Luck neighborhoods, with the goal of hitting the finish line at exactly 11 a.m. No timing devices, watches or smartphones were allowed.

Weaver finished 3.08 seconds before 11 a.m., while her running partner, Matt Bevan, was second at 3.42 seconds early. Third-place winner Greg Schuler came in 4.56 seconds after 11 a.m.

Weaver, whose past running experience includes marathons and ultramarathons, started the race at 10:12 a.m. and was shooting for a pace of 9 minutes and 20 seconds per mile. “I went by effort, but I had no idea,” she said.

The goal for the run is to give runners a fun twist to kick off the new year, said organizer Melissa Burger of Columbia. And since the objective is to stick with a certain pace, novice runners and even walkers have just as much of a chance at winning as fast runners do.

“Anyone has the opportunity to win,” Burger said.

Another twist is the distance. An 8-kilometer course works out to just shy of 5 miles. Most runners know their typical times for 5-kilometer or 10-kilometer distances, but not many train specifically for an 8K race.

Runners focused on fun more than on winning, running in pairs or groups and chatting along the way. Usually the race draws about 120 runners, but owing to the low temperatures, Monday’s run fielded 76. Temperatures were in single digits early Monday, and in the mid-teens as the race wrapped up.

Jerry Warfield won the Striders’ Thanksgiving prediction run, a 10K course. But he had some second thoughts about running in the cold on New Year’s Day.

“I got the temperature this morning and it was 5 degrees. I said, ‘How much of this can I take?’ ” the Columbia resident said. “I went on the website looking for a way out, but the Striders didn’t give me one.”

When he saw the race was still on, Warfield bundled up and headed to the Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center, where he was encouraged after seeing plenty of other runners showing up.

Warfield said he didn’t have any expectations for the New Year’s Day race. “If I can just finish an 8K today, I’ll be pleased,” he said. Warfield did finish, but he came in before 11 a.m.

Some of the runners and Striders members took pride in running the Howard County race after hearing that at least one other New Year’s Day race in the area was canceled because of the cold.

Bill Sciannella of Columbia ran with some of his usual running partners, ending up about a minute and a half early. Sciannella, who is blind, relies on his friends to keep him on course and on pace. With sub-freezing temperatures and a dusting of snow remaining from the weekend, Sciannella’s partners had to be sure to keep him off of patches of ice on the trail.

“I just get passed around,” he joked.

One of his partners, Eric Katkow of Columbia, said he thought the weather was great, with sunny skies and little wind.

“It actually was really nice,” Katkow said. “I was overdressed.”

Mary Niland, Linda Alms and Willie Flowers were the first runners in, finishing way too soon to earn a prize — about 20 minutes early. They joked that it was because they were so fast.

“We just wanted to get out of the cold,” Niland said.

Alms said it was great to get out and get some exercise to begin the new year. “We already can check something off of the list,” she said.

pwood@baltsun.com

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