Runners from 14 states participate in Alabama Series race No. 4
Erik Johnson and Mary Houchin proved their worth as elite runners at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run on November 10.
More than 320 runners from 14 different states participated in the event, which was staged at the award-winning Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama.
The runner who traveled the farthest ended up running the fastest. Johnson, who resides in Seward, Alaska, placed first overall for the 21-kilometer half-marathon course. He finished in 1:29:36, which was nearly two minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
"The course started with close to a mile on the road but then transitioned to single track mountain bike trails, with lots of twisting zig-zagging turns," Johnson said. "There was some gain in elevation in the run in the later stages of the race, but it was all run-able and easy grades. Overall the condition of the course was smooth with good footing."
Johnson and Ieden Leckenby from Hoover, Alabama, broke away from the other runners early, and then Johnson got in front by himself after the first few miles. "I was running hard for the first five miles, then I backed off a bit since I wasn't going to be challenged," Johnson said.
Johnson is considered one of the top distance runners in Alaska, and he happened to be on a trip to the East Coast when he saw that the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run might fit into his trip.
Leckenby placed second in 1:31:14, and David Olsen from Birmingham was third in 1:37:35.
Houchin was an impressive sixth overall and first among the females. Her finishing time of 1:40:49 was nearly 15 minutes ahead of the other females.
Then again, Houchin has an impressive running resume that includes experience with Team USA at the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. She is also a former standout runner for the Arizona State track and cross country teams. She currently serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the University of Alabama at Birmingham track and cross country teams.
The event also featured a 10K course and a 5K course. Overall winners for the 10K were Jason Gerard and Katie Metcalf; overall winners for the 5K were Dillon O'Hare and Mary Posser.
The XTERRA Oak Mountain was the fourth of seven events in the 2013-14 season for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The next race will be the XTERRA Coldwater Mountain Trail Run on November 30 at Anniston, Alabama.
To register for a race in the series or to learn more about it, please visitwww.dirtyspokes.com.