The winner Saturday of the Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon resides in Bluffton, S.C., but Craig Dye was born and raised in Hebron, Neb., population “about 1,500 at best,” he said.
Eric McDonald said his hometown is bigger than that, but not by much. The winner of the full marathon — his first in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 47 seconds — was born and raised in Groveland, Mass., population about 6,500.
“It’s a small town,” said McDonald, 23. “Even people that live a few towns over are like, ‘What’s Groveland? Where’s Groveland?’ It’s a very, very tiny town.”
Apparently Groveland was big enough to produce a runner the quality of McDonald, an NCAA Division II All-American miler last spring at UMass-Lowell while earning a degree in criminal justice.
And Hebron, which boasts on its website of “the world’s largest porch swing,” should also be proud of Dye, 30, a former Division III All-American in cross country and steeplechase at Nebraska Wesleyan.
So is Hebron a running town?
“No,” Dye said. “Farmers.”
Dye is a physical therapist in Bluffton and a member of the Palmetto Running Company’s racing team. He competes in 5K and 10K road races. He won his half marathon debut Saturday in 1:12:18.
“I chose the half because it was something (teammate) Seth (Tucker) and I were going to go fast in rather than beat ourselves up on the full,” Dye said of the marathon options. “It just worked to our advantage today.”
Indeed, Tucker placed second at a personal-best 1:13:11. But it wasn’t that simple.
Dye and Tucker, 27, a former Ithaca (N.Y.) College runner, planned to attack the 13.1-mile course by pushing each other. They wanted to take turns in the lead, the other drafting from behind.
That lasted about eight miles when they realized that the two runners ahead of them were still moving at a great clip. They didn’t know if the runners were doing the full or half, just that they were fast.
“(Dye) said to me, ‘How about at mile 10 we just go and see, go 5:15s and 5:20s?’ ” Tucker said in reference to mile-split times. “He went and I just kept motoring. He was moving.”
Dye’s smooth stride looked effortless. The duo passed Daniel Smoak, 25, the early leader in the half marathon, and were not to be caught.
“They had more left in the tanks at the end,” said Smoak, who finished third in 1:14:22.
The other man ahead of them was a full marathoner, Steven Ryan, who had rocketed from the start line and worked with Smoak to pace himself. Ryan and Dye eventually learned they were in separate divisions.
“It’s a little difficult because the half and the full start at the same time,” said Ryan, 33, of Hoboken, N.J. “You don’t always know who’s doing what. My strategy was to run my race, run like a 1:13, 1:14 half and try to keep that up for the second half. I went a little fast on the first half and it caught up to me.”
Ryan estimated he had been on his feet for at least 20 hours over the previous two days here as he worked the Health & Fitness Expo for his employer, Champion System, a custom apparel company.
“It comes back to haunt you,” said Ryan, who didn’t ask for excuses. “But it’s a lot of fun. A great race and a great crowd.”
Ryan finished in second (2:41:12) behind McDonald, who was just as confused from his perspective watching Ryan and Smoak start fast. He thought both were in the half marathon.
“Who the heck is in front of me?” McDonald asked a bicycle escort. “I felt like I was going a very honest pace.”
He caught and passed Ryan around the 17-mile mark at Savannah State University’s track.
“I saw him coming,” Ryan said. “He got me. It happens.”
McDonald still had to finish his first 26.2 miler, and that included a tough, cold stretch on the Truman Parkway and a strong headwind on the descent.
“You felt it a lot coming back,” McDonald said. “That’s where a lot of things started shutting down on me.”
He got encouragement from his bicycle escort and pushed through his pain. The man wearing No. 1 on his racing bib lived up to the number.
“I just stopped thinking about everything the last mile,” said McDonald, who crossed the finish line and lay down on the road in a mix of celebration and exhaustion, he said.
“As soon as I stopped running, the legs felt like they didn’t want to move anymore,” McDonald said. “So I felt better just going to the ground instead of just falling.”
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source: Savannah How by Nathan Dominitz