ELDERSBURG - Ryan Stasiowski sprinted past cheering bystanders and crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else.
He won the Eldersburg Rogue Runners Labor Day 5K in a time of 16 minutes, 42 seconds, at Liberty High School Monday. He beat more than 300 participants in one of the first major distance races in Carroll County this fall.
And yet, he wasn't completely satisfied with his time.
"I can do better," he said.
Such is the perfectionist plight of long distance runners. Every run is a race against the clock, a chance to set a new personal best.
Like most 5K events, the Labor Day race drew runners of varying abilities, ages and experience levels. They were all seeking a chance to achieve goals.
In some cases, that meant winning a trophy as one of the top overall finishers, which were Stasiowski, Karsten Brown and Brady Wilt for the men and Sherry Stick, Elizabeth Cascio and Courtney Crouse for the women.
But for some youths participating in the mile-long fun run after the 5K race, simply finishing was achievement enough.
Reed Diffenderfer, 3, of Westminster, ran across the finish line alongside his mother Tracy. After finishing, Tracy picked up Reed and gave him a hug. He smiled while receiving congratulations from supporters across the finish line.
Reed is always running around the house, so Tracy decided to get him going on a course and see how he would do.
He ran a fair chunk of the race, she said, walking when he needed a break. And he got valuable exercise while doing so.
So did Emily and Erin Roberts and Charlotte and Emmet Connolly. The Sykesville youths, ranging in age from 3 to 7, all took part in their first fun run Monday. The two pairs of siblings are cousins.
They didn't wear specialized running shoes like many of the adults, but it didn't matter. They jogged, they sprinted, at times, and they completed their goal.
"I think it would be cool if they all decided to run," said George Connolly, while 5K runners sprinted past the cheering children. "It's a great sport."
Stasiowski knows that all too well. He was one of the distance running veterans in Monday's race. The 2011 Lafayette College graduate ran for his school's cross country team. He holds the school record for a mile run with a time of 4 minutes, 9 seconds.
Since moving to Eldersburg after graduating last year, Stasiowski, a civil engineer, has gotten involved in the local running scene. He competed in Westminster's Main Street Mile in the spring, finishing in a blistering 4 minutes, 14 seconds.
The slender Stasiowski wore a maroon and white Lafayette cross country tank top Monday. He spent his holiday laboring, and, for a change, it wasn't as an engineer.
"Running," he said, "is something nice to do other than work."