Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Runners from Charlotte dominate South Carolina Race

Hovis, Custer & Hazelton take top honors at Harbison Trail Run 
July 17, 2012 – The XTERRA Harbison Trail Run featured quite a contrast in finishes last weekend. Ben Hovis was the overall winner, finishing nearly 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Dalena Custer and Michelle Hazelton shared top honors in the women’s division, crossing the finish line together. 
The XTERRA Harbison Trail Run was completed on Sunday, July 8, at the Harbison State Forest in Columbia, South Carolina. The event drew more than 300 runners from 19 different states. 
Interestingly enough, the three winners all train with the Charlotte Running Club in North Carolina. Hovis has won XTERRA Trail Run races in North Carolina, but this was his first time entering an XTERRA South Carolina event. 
“I had never run these trails before, so it was fun to get on a new set of trails,” said Hovis, 34. “The trails are technical with plenty of hills. However, there were also a few wider sections that provided some space to roll out a bit more.” 
(Ben Hovis pictured, courtesy www.strictlyrunning.com) 
Hovis said he entered the Harbison Trail Run as a form of training for longer races he has coming up later this summer. “I went into the race with the intention of just chilling behind some other folks, for the most part,” he said. “This had been my highest mileage week in some time, and my legs were a bit tired.” 

Hovis took the lead halfway through the course and then ran away from everyone else. He said he kept running hard because he had no idea where the other runners were. “I had no idea what the lead was, no idea where I was on the trails, no idea what was ahead of me, so I just kept myself under control,” he said. “I honestly had no idea until the finish that I had won by such a large margin.” 

Hovis completed the 21-kilometer course in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 56 seconds. Hovis is a high school teacher and cross country coach in North Carolina. He said the daily training with his students helps him prepare for weekend races. 
Hunter McGahee, a member of the Wofford College track and cross country teams, placed second with a time of 1:38:35. Freddy Cortes was third in 1:38:45. Custer and Hazelton came in fourth overall. They ran the entire course together, just as they planned to do before the race started. They often train – and talk – together in Charlotte. “Michelle has an amazing ability to talk while running up and down steep hills and jumping over logs and roots,” Custer said. “So our conversation moved from chatting about our plans for races for the rest of the year to sharing stories about how she met her boyfriend and I met my husband. We would occasionally hit pause until we got to the top of a hill and then once we caught our breath, the conversation would pick back up.” 

Custer and Hazelton passed a few other women late in the course, and then decided to cross the finish line together. 
(Michelle Hazelton and Dalena Custer pictured, courtesy www.strictlyrunning.com) 
“Since we had run the whole race together and helped to push each other and keep each other’s minds occupied, we decided that we would finish the race together also,” Custer said. “We both agreed that it would be fun to hold hands over the finish line to show that we had completed it together!” 
Hazelton added: “I think we had both planned on running and finishing together from the start. Close to the finish I said hand-holding finish and Dalena said you know it. Then she grabbed my hand when we could see the finish.” 
It was the first XTERRA Trail Run experience for both Custer and Hazelton, but said it will not be their last. They both plan to enter some of the races in the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series. 
CLICK HERE to see complete results, including results from the 5K run/walk. 

Charlotte Running Club staff blogger and Boston Marathon veteran Allen Strickland also finished the race in the top 20, actually 20th exactly, and was quoted as saying, "I have come to the shocking conclusion that trail racing is not for me." When questioned further about the details of the course he stated, "“That’s not running.  That’s fast hiking.” 

The XTERRA Harbison Trail Run was the second of three races in the 2012 XTERRA South Carolina Trail Run Series. The season finale will be the XTERRA Table Rock Trail Run on August 18 at Pickens, S.C. 
To register for a race in the XTERRA South Carolina Trail Run Series, or to learn more about it, please visit www.marathonmajic.com or www.xterratrailrun.com. 

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