Daigeaun, Palmer win marathon; Prada, Starr win half-marathon
June 27, 2013 – More than 240 runners from 15 different states were treated to a challenging adventure at the XTERRA Big Elk Trail Run last weekend at Elkton, Maryland.
The event was completed on June 22, and it featured both a full-marathon (26.2 miles) and a half-marathon (13.1 miles). Both courses took runners along the picturesque trails at Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area.
Michael Dageaun from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Jackie Palmer from Newark, Delaware, were the overall winners for the full marathon. Juan Prada from Newark, Delaware, and Emma Starr from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, were the overall winners for the half-marathon.
“I would describe the course as a kind of potpourri,” Dageaun said. “You had a bit of everything imaginable. One moment you’d be running some rolling rooty single track in the woods, and the next, you’d be on some flat double track through a field. There were a couple of road crossings and stream hops that really rounded out the course. Also, lots of twists and turns on the trail itself which at times made getting a good rhythm difficult.”
Heat and humidity were also factors, as temperatures were in the 80s throughout the race.
“It was extremely hot, especially during the last two hours as the mid-day heat came in,” Palmer said. “I was stopping at every aid station the second lap to dump water on me and try to keep from overheating.”
Daigeaun and Palmer were up for the challenge, and they both ran away from the competition. Daigeaun placed first overall, completing the course in 3 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds. He finished an astonishing 42 minutes ahead of the other runners.
“Within the first 100 yards, I started to pull away from the rest of the field, so I was out front pretty much all day,” he explained. “Being alone for such a long time can test the mind and due to the heat it certainly did. However, between doing long solo training runs that go from 22 to 25 miles rather regularly and racing ultras, it is a feeling I am used to.”
Palmer also had an impressive performance, placing second overall and first among all females with a time of 4:01:08. She finished more than an hour ahead of the other women in the race.
“I was wondering why I didn’t see many guys the second lap,” she said. “I was actually impressed thinking everyone must be running a very consistently paced race. Then at the finish I realized I hadn’t seen anyone because there was only one guy in front of me!”
Pierre Olivier Jacques from Canada placed third overall at 4:04:04, and Zachary Hughes from Wadsworth, Ohio, was fourth at 4:08:18. Sarah Colwell from Frederick, Maryland, was the second female at 5:02:19.
The half-marathon field featured nearly 200 runners, and Prada led the way from start to finish. He completed the course in 1:40:14, which was nearly four minutes ahead of the other top runners.
“The course was really hard, with a lot of sharp turns,” Prada said. “There were not any long hills, but the trails were very stiff and rocky, so they were tough. The day was perfect – very warm, but inside the woods it was nice. The course was very entertaining, changing at every moment.”
Prada is originally from Colombia, but is currently working at the University of Delaware as a visiting scholar. His brother, Luis Prada, also entered the half-marathon and placed sixth overall.
Steven Leibowitz from Baltimore, Maryland, was second overall in 1:44:11, and Joe Gonzalez from Fort Washington, Maryland, was third in 1:46:03.
Emma Starr was the first female in 1:56:28, and her victory was somewhat surprising because running is not her first sport of choice. She is a member of the soccer team at George Mason University, and enters running races during the summers as a way to stay in shape.
“I love trail runs,” she said. “I love the environment and the constant twists and turns of the trails. I just started competing in half marathons this summer.”
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The XTERRA Big Elk Trail Run was the fourth, and final, race of the 2013 XTERRA Atlantic Trail Run Series. The series will return in 2014, and runners of all ages and skill levels can enter. To learn more about it, please visit www.adventuregeekproductions.com.
About the XTERRA Atlantic Trail Run Series
The XTERRA Atlantic Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2013 season, there will be four races available for runners, with the courses ranging in length from 5 kilometers to 42 kilometers. The top runners in every age group will receive points after each race that will count toward the overall series standings. At the conclusion of the series, each age-group champion will receive a free entry to represent the Atlantic at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. Atlantic is one of 16 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Big Elk Marathon
Starting from the fairgrounds, the course will travel north on road for approximately ¾ mile before turning right onto the Orange trail. The orange trail consists of mostly double-track with some single track sections and enough rock gardens to make you thankful you chose to wear your trail specific racing shoes. This segment will feature some light rolling hills for about 1.5 miles before turning onto some unnamed single track. After a quick downhill and easy stream crossing, the course will zigzag up and down a series of hairpin turns before letting out on a short, steep rocky downhill that will serve as a great separation point for the mountain goats from the trail sprouts. At the bottom of this trail, runners will follow some grassy double-track along the Big Elk Creek before crossing over on a bridge and reaching the first aid station (~mile 3.5).
From the first aid station, runners will proceed briefly on some double-track/service road before jumping on uphill single track bringing you to the Route 273 crossing. After going over the bridge, you will have a brief flat gravel road to stretch your legs out before turning right on some more single track. This single track is mostly non-technical but will bring you through a series of sharp turns before letting you out back onto the gravel road surrounding the creek. Water and aid will be waiting for you at the end of this trail (~mile 5).
After another brief (.25 mile) on gravel road along the water, you will again cross the Big Elk creek onto the Yellow trail. You will follow this single-track rolling trail on the west side of the creek for slightly over a mile before crossing over the gravel road (possible self serve water-refill spot) and through a field to get to the 7 Bridges trail. This single-track section will feature some significantly technical sections from roots, with a few steep changes in grade as you wind through the woods in this area of the park. This trail will let you back out onto the gravel road which you will follow up to Gallaher Rd, and crossing into the parking lot for the red trail where full aid will be waiting (~mile 8.5).
The race will then travel through the inner red-loop featuring some rooted sections and small stream crossings for 1.5 miles, before traveling uphill towards Big Elk Chapel Road. Water will be waiting at the road crossing (~mile 10.5). You will then continue through a field before entering trails surrounding the training grounds. This trail will wind around and gently roll, as well as featuring some small stream crossings. The course will then continue along the edge of the field travelling east with a quick aid station available (~mile 11.5).
In the final segment of the course you will travel briefly uphill on some moderately rooted single-track trail, continue across a training field before joining the last 1.5 mile segment of rooted single track bringing you back to the fairgrounds.
Overall, the course features rolling hills with no significant “climbs”. Depending on the rainfall leading up to race day, keeping your feet dry may be an option, although it may require a bit of extra effort! The course has some technical elements with rocks along the first several miles of the course, leaving way for significant roots waiting to trip you up over the last half of each loop.