300 runners from 12 states battle humid and challenging conditions
The XTERRA Harbison Trail Run has become one of the most popular trail races in South Carolina, and the latest edition did not disappoint. Humid conditions on race day and torrential rain in the days leading to the race were not enough for more than 300 runners from 12 different states to complete the Harbison Trail Run on July 7 at Columbia, S.C.
"Considering how much rain the area has had recently, we were fortunate enough to stay dry but this did mean a pretty muddy course," said Leslie Thompson, who took top female honors for the half-marathon course. "We were also fortunate that it was overcast the entire race, so while it was humid, the heat wasn't as bad as it could've been in Columbia in July."
Jose Zavala from Hickory, North Carolina, placed first overall in the half-marathon course, finishing the 21 kilometers in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 7 seconds. Hunter McGahee, a cross country and track runner at Wofford College, placed second in 1:36:41, and 14-year-old Avery Dominick from Irmo, S.C., was third in 1:42:14.
"The first three or so guys pulled away within the first couple miles and really did not look back," said fifth-place finisher Carl Epley from Marion, N.C. "It had been raining a lot, but the course had drained fairly well and was in good shape. It was an overcast morning, so there was no direct sun and it did not rain during the race, but the humidity was incredible."
The top 20 finishers were from North Carolina and South Carolina, but the rest of the field featured runners from Georgia, Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Arizona and Nebraska.
"I really enjoy the rolling hills and single track trails through the Harbison pine forest," Epley said. "There is always a huge turnout for this event and you know you are going to compete against some quality runners in Columbia."
Thompson, who is from Myrtle, S.C., placed 16th overall and was the first female to cross the finish line, but she was quick to give credit to two other "faster" women.
Birgit Spann and Robin O'Connell officially placed second and third, respectively, in the women's field. However, they both took a wrong turn late in the course, allowing Thompson to take the lead.
"I never saw them, but at the last aid station everyone cheering me on told me I was the third overall female so I just kept my pace up since I didn't see the other two ahead of me or anyone behind me," Thompson explained. "When I went through the finish and was told I was the first female finisher, I knew something was up since I hadn't passed any other women since the aid station, and as soon as they finished I heard them explain how they took a wrong turn."
Still, Thompson's win was impressive considering that it was her first time running at Harbison State Forest, and her first trail run in nearly a decade.
"I went in expecting to break two hours without much effort, but portions of the course, particularly through the 'Spider Woman' trail made the course much more difficult than I had anticipated," said Thompson, who finished in 2:02:06. "It was a fun but challenging course."
In addition to the half-marathon course, there was also a 5-kilometer "short course." James Bowen and Hope Whisman, both from Columbia, took top honors for the 5K race.
Also in the field of runners were members of Team Red, White and Blue, and several of them ran the 21K course while carrying American flags. Team RWB is a non-profit organization with a mission to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Mike Reyna, Team Captain of the Columbia Chapter of Team RWB, completed the course in 2:37:40. He is a combat veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said the activities of Team RWB have helped him "move on" since his return from combat.
The XTERRA Harbison Trail Run was the second of three races in the 2013 XTERRA South Carolina Trail Run Series. The top runners in each age group earned points toward the overall standings of the series.
The season finale for the South Carolina Series will be the XTERRA Table Rock Trail Run at Pickens, S.C., on August 17. To register for the race or to learn more about the series, please visit www.marathonmajic.com.