- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

A group of Washington-area runners who train and routinely compete against each other dominated the 28th Marine Corps Marathon yesterday, taking the top three men’s spots and first place in the women’s division.

Peter Sherry, 35, of Great Falls, Va., didn’t even appear to be a contender 21 miles into the race. He trailed the lead runners by as much as 55 seconds with five miles to go and was practically out of sight. Then he made his move along the 14th Street Bridge and overtook leader Eric Post at the 24-mile mark and cruised to a relatively easy win with a time of 2:25:17, two minutes and 41 seconds ahead of second-place Post.

In the women’s race Heather Hanscom, 25, of Alexandria, running in her first marathon, won with a time of 2:37:59.

Sherry’s surge, in warm and less-than-ideal marathon conditions, was impressive. He covered the last five miles and 365 yards in 30:29. Sherry averaged 5:32 a mile for the race.

“I just kept plugging away,” said Sherry, who coaches track at Herndon High School. “I just felt better and better. It’s a bizarre event. The race doesn’t start until the 20-mile mark.”

Like most of the 18,000 participants yesterday, Sherry struggled with the 70-degree heat, humidity and windy conditions, especially along the finishing miles on the bridge.

A race official said about 14 runners were treated for heat-related illnesses and that one person was taken by helicopter from the course to a hospital. There were no reports of other major illnesses or injuries as of 5p.m. when most of the runners completed the 26.2-mile course that started and ended near the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington.

Sherry had already qualified for the 2004 Olympic trials in the marathon and 5K distances but fell short of his marathon personal best of 2:20.

Sherry trains with Matt Sentrowitz, the track coach at American University, and recently opened the Gotta Run Shoe Store, which he passed during the third mile of the course. Sherry, a married father of two daughters, said he chose the Marine Corps Marathon in order to avoid traveling and also to compete in a big race in his hometown.

Post broke down after he was overtaken by Sherry and began walking just after the 23-mile mark, stumbled along for about 15 seconds before regaining his composure and finishing at 2:27:58. He averaged 5:38 a mile.

“The bridge was impossible,” said Post, a 24-year-old from Fairfax who teaches math at Chantilly High School. “I just couldn’t regroup. The damage was already done. It was a tough loss but if anybody deserved to win it was Peter. He’s such a good runner.”

Post had run only one other marathon finishing in 2:29. Yesterday, he went immediately to an aid station after the race and received treatment for his cramped legs. He recovered and spoke about the race 10 minutes later.

Sherry and Post trailed the early leader, Aaron Church of South Riding, Va., by about a full minute until just after the 14-mile mark, near the National Art Gallery.

Church, who led from the start and appeared to be running effortlessly, dropped to the ground at an aid station and got treatment for severe blisters on his feet.

Post took the lead for about the next eight miles with Sherry about 50 seconds behind.

“It’s a tough distance and anything can happen,” said the 28-year-old Church. “I felt great but my feet were on fire.”

Church, known for his knee-high black socks, said he had the same problem in a recent race in Richmond so he prepared by applying ointment to his feet, but it didn’t seem to help. He lost about 2 minutes at the aid station and finished third in 2:28:38.

Church made an effort to catch the leaders near mile 17 but faded.

“I had to gut it out today,” he said. “I didn’t want anybody talking smack to me.”

Hanscom had an auspicious debut in her first 26.2-mile race.

The longest race Hanscom, who ran cross country and track at James Madison University and specialized in the 10,000 meters, had run previously was a half marathon and yet her time yesterday was good enough to qualify for the Olympic trials. She averaged 6:01 a mile and led from start to finish. She said she was inspired by her father, a retired Army officer, and also by the fact she has recovered from a brain tumor that was discovered when she was 11.

“I did it,” an exhausted Hanscom said after the race as Sherry, a friend and training partner, untied her shoes. “I am blessed with great coaches, family and friends. I just kept at it.”

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