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Saturday, September 2, 2000 -- Charleston, WV
28th Annual Charleston Distance 15 Mile & 5K Runs
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage]
Results: [Overall 5K] [Overall 15M] [By Class 5K] [ By Class 15M]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
[Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12] [Set 13] [Set 14] [Set 15] [Set 16] [Set 17] [Set 18]
5K Race Pic sets 1-7; 15 Mile Race Pic sets 1 and 7-18
[1998 Coverage] [1999 Coverage]

The friendly streets of Charleston greet a huge crowd of runners
Mother Nature had been giving West Virginians quite a break, that was until the morning of the 28th Annual Charleston Distance Run. With temperatures only in the low 70's, for the start of the 5 kilometer and 15 mile events, it was the stifling humidity that would cause the runners to suffer. However, with well over a thousand runners taking to the streets, the city of Charleston was a generous host. Plenty of water stops were provided with an abundance of refreshments waiting at the finish.

One person who seemed oblivious to the conditions was Gideon Mutisya who was looking to claim his fifth Charleston Distance Run title. Jumping out to lead the pack early, Mutisya was joined by fellow Kenyans, all of whom are currently training in the US, Elly Rono and Andrew Musuva. They raced should-to-shoulder through the first 10K in 31:46 (5:07 per mile), but it wasn't too far from that point that Mutisya decided to put his challengers to the test.

At the 7-mile mark, "I took off," said the 5'3", 95-pound Mutisya, and no one would follow. From that point on it was all Mutisya who tore through the next three miles at just over a 4:45 pace. His winning time of 1:15:30, while off his 1996 course record time of 1:12:24, was well ahead of second place Rono's 1:17:10. Rono, who was trailing Musuva in the middle of the race, recovered after taking in some extra water to claim the second place prize. Musuva, who simply said "It was very hot to run," took home third place honors with a time of 1:18:17.

Svetlana Zakharova
Svetlana Zakharova sprints for a first place finish
The presence of an international field of runners was also apparent in the women's field as a pair of Russian ladies, currently training our of Rockville, Maryland, took the top spots. First place Svetlana Zakharova (1:27:17) and second place Irina Suvorova-Pupaza (1:29:48) both cracked the top 10 overall, eighth and 10th, respectively. Also putting in a strong showing was the third place female and 14th overall finisher, Tammy Slusser (1:31:59) of Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Soon after the starting gun for the 15-mile event had gone off, another huge crowd edged their toes to the line for the 5K event. Returning this year were 39-year-old Larry Taylor and his 16-year-old daughter Jessica Taylor, the male and female champions for both of the previous two years.

It didn't take long for Larry to take up familiar ground in the lead position as Jared Smith did his best to keep it close in the early going. By the time Taylor completed the first mile, his only real race was one to beat his course record of 16:02. Well on his way, through the second mile, the humidity took its toll and Taylor later said, "I felt it the last mile and had to back off a little."

Dennis Robertson
The fun heats up on the track at Charleston's Laidley Field
He still managed to clock a 15:59 to set a new course record, and win his fourth straight Charleston 5K. Smith held on for second in 17:23 while Brian Oppermann (17:40) took home the third place prize.

Jessica Taylor found her competition a little more difficult to shake in the female division. Kelly McGraw held the early advantage, as they raced through the first mile. Eventually Taylor was able to move ahead of McGraw, but the gap never grew too big. At the finish it was Taylor taking the win in 18:46 with McGraw taking second in 18:53. The two pushed each other to impressive 12th and 13th overall finishes, respectively.

While most of the 5K finishers were seeking some shade and cooling off with water and refreshments, the final competitor to complete the 3.1-mile distance made his way to the finish at Laidley Field. With a roar of cheers and applause, Charleston's own John Pianfetti conquered another run with enthusiasm. Certainly, it seems, everyone's stories of the trials they endured on this day's run seemed meager. Why, they did nothing more than what a healthy and smiling 93-year-old man had just done.

The 29th annual Charleston Distance run will be waiting for the youngster in all of us to come out and play in 2001. And just remember, as Joseph Lee is credit with reminding us, "We do not cease playing because we are old: we grow old because we cease playing."