The Arbutus Firecracker 10K race is known for the residents of Arbutus providing water along the 6.2-mile course, but this year’s race on the Fourth of July got an unexpected invasion of water when a water main break erupted on the course at Francis Avenue in front of the 7-Eleven.
Martin Goode, the new race director for the 36th annual race, found out about it around an hour and a half before the race.
“I went down and I looked and I saw that it had blown up the sidewalk and a little piece of the road,” said Goode, who had hoped runners could navigate the stretch by running through the water or on the dry sidewalk.
“They finally told me you’ve got to change the course because the Department of Works didn’t know what the integrity of the road is and it could collapse,” Goode said.
Without changing the distance, he altered the course by having the runners go straight across Francis Ave. on Oakland Rd. and turn right on Elm Rd. instead of turning right on Francis Ave.
That left another possible obstacle in that the Soap Box Derby race was scheduled to start on Elm and Oakland at 9 a.m., while the Firecracker race starts at 8 a.m.
“It’s less than four miles in, so you would have to be running 15-minute miles to not make it to that spot,” Goode said. “I had to tell everyone they had to make it to Elm and Oakland by 9 o’clock or they can’t finish the race and every one was through, so we were happy about that.”
The fastest to that point and first to the finish line was Dustin Meeker, who clocked in through the heat and humidity in 34:10.
Meeker, who runs for the Falls Road Running Club, paced 5:30 per mile, slightly faster than second-place Dave Berdan, who finished in 34:30.
Berdan, who won the previous three Arbutus Firecracker races, paced 5:34 per mile.
Louis Levine (34:46), Michael Wardian (35:11) and Andrew Lent (36:10) rounded out the top five.
Wardian, 44, is one of the top ultra-marathoners in the world and last year he ran seven marathons in seven days, one in each continent. He ran them all in under three hours and won the World Marathon Challenge that featured 24 runners.
“He (Wardian) is one of the nicest guys you will ever want to run into,” Goode said. “This guy is awesome and I’m just fortunate he is a friend of mine.”
Julia Roman-Duval was the first female finisher and she was 10th overall in a time of 37:29.
Her pace of 6:02 per mile was 30 seconds faster than second-place Megan DiGregorio, who ran 40:34.
Roman-Duval, who competed in the Olympic Trials marathon and finished 50th out of 149 runners in a time of 2:46.47, won the Firecracker 10K in 2016.
Brit Lang (41:22), Sherry Stick (42:05) and Gina McNamara (42:29) rounded out the top five females.
“Not to demean anyone, but Julia is in a different class for some people,” Goode said. “When you look across the board at all the finishers and how much slower all of them ran, she still ran a heckuva time.”
While the runners took center stage, it was the people behind the scenes that made it happen.
“The two major factors were the fact that the police worked with me and didn’t tell me to shut it down because if they said shut it down, I’m done... and the residents were out in full force with sprinklers, hoses, pop-up water stations and one place had little Popsicles for the runners,” Goode said.
He also praised the work of Bobby Mitchell, who heads the Arbutus Athletic Association’s football and basketball programs.
“Bobby Mitchell, who runs the 4.75-mile water stop, does a spectacular job,” Goode said. “People were commenting about how enthusiastic they were, how much water they had, how cold the water was.”
Goode noted there were many contributors.
“I might deserve a teeny tiny bit of credit, but I left some people back at that finish line, start area that jumped in and really, really helped me,” Goode said. “There were some unsung heroes behind the scenes.”
There were a total of 398 registrants for the race and 359 finishers.