N.J. Man Captures Manchester Mile
By JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Earlier Tuesday around 1:30 p.m., Rob Novak decided he was going to jog down Bridge Street before the start of the second annual HASLAW Manchester Mile.
“For myself, I have to know the course, what I’m getting myself into,” said Novak.
Four hours later, the Hamilton, N.J., native who just recently returned from the United States Olympic Trials, found out just how challenging the course was after recording a winning time of 3:49.92 in the Queen City.
Boston’s Eric Ashe, who led the race at the half-mile mark, finished second with a 3:53.68 time while Pat Fullerton of Bradford, Mass., was third at 3:57.63.
On the women’s side, Tammie Robie of Milford, the 2010 winner of the CIGNA/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race, was the fastest female Tuesday in 5:01.60. Deborah Slason of Goffstown was runner-up at 5:17.32 and Amanda Lawrence of Mansfield Center, Conn., placed third in 5:33.31.
Novak’s and Robie’s times didn’t break the course records set last year.
Brian Gagnon of Lowell, Mass., a former All-American from the University of Connecticut, posted a winning 3:43.9 time last year. Gagnon didn’t compete in the Manchester Mile Tuesday. He ran in the 1,500-meter event at the U.S. Olympic Trials over the weekend in Eugene, Ore., and failed to qualify for the finals heat.
“His (Gagnon) time in this race will last for a while,” reasoned Novak. “In fact if anyone beats it, it will probably be Gagnon again.” Novak, who runs for the New York Athletic Club and was an All-American at Seton Hall, just ran the 800 meters at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Oregon last week. Like Gagnon, he failed to qualify for the finals heat after posting a 1:48.24 time during the semifinal heats.
So after traveling across the country, Novak encountered what he termed a “very different and difficult course” in Manchester. “I mean this is a course you can’t train for. At about the three-quarter mark, I was breathing heavy, was tired and just glided to the finish line.”
Before the mile race started, race organizer John Mortimer predicted Novak would win the race.
“He’s got the best track and field credentials out of anybody in the race,” said Mortimer. “He’s pretty talented.”
Ashe, a graduate of Boston University who runs for the Boston Athletic Association, said Novak passed him just after the half-mile mark. “I got out very quickly and used the downhill to establish my fast time,” said Ashe. “An 800-meter runner like him (Novak), he tends to put more energy and works harder at the end of the race. “
Ashe said the 180-foot drop “made the race very different for me. I’m already at the half-mile mark thinking it’s only the quarter-mark mile.”
Ashe, who missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase by three seconds, said his fastest flat mile is 4:03.
Fullerton is a graduate of Stonehill College and a two-time All-American.
His goal was to post a sub-four minute time. “I was around 1:55 at the half-mile mark and knew I was on pace to do it,” said Fullerton. “The course is so fast that, if you didn’t see the markers, you wouldn’t believe how fast you were going because of the downhill slope. It’s amazing and crazy at the same time.” Fullerton agreed with Novak that Gagnon’s course record will be tough to beat.
“I ran against Gagnon in high school,” said Fullerton. “What makes Gagnon’s time impressive is that he was able to muster a final kick over the last quarter-mile of this race last year. We just found out first-hand how tough that is to do. So if anyone is going to beat Gagnon’s mark, that runner will have to have some kick down the stretch.” On the women’s side, Slason puts things in perspective finishing runner-up to Robie.
“She’s (Robie) in a different league,” said Slason. “She’s an elite runner and I’m not. It’s just that simple.” Yet Robie, who gave birth nine weeks ago (daughter Brooke), didn’t think coming into the race she would post anything close to her 5:01.60 time. “I’m really thinking around 5:20,” said Robie. “So I’m really thrilled with my time.”
Robie said the course was challenging. “I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But everything worked out perfect for me. You start out of control until the course flattens a bit around the three-quarter mile mark. Then you just barrel your way to the final line. It’s exciting and to win this race after winning the Cigna race is very gratifying.”
Robie served as the girls’ cross-country coach at Bishop Guertin of Nashua (1997-2006). She is a graduate of Tewksbury High and UMass Lowell.
Slason said her legs went numb about 100 yards into the race. “I was spent at the half-mile mark, breathing hard. But then I just let myself go and went as fast as I could go until I reached the finish line. Like I said, I’m not an elite runner, but competing on this course and finishing second is awesome.”
Rounding out the top five male finishers in the Manchester Mile were Nate Jenkins of North Andover, Mass. (4:05.56), who ran for Team USA at the 2009 World Marathon Championships and Sean Nyman, the first New Hampshire runner to cross the finish line. The Charlestown resident posted a time of 4:30.15.
Only three runners finished the mile in under four minutes while eight runners accomplished the feat last year.
Rounding out the top five runners on the women’s side were Jenna Marschhausen of Hooksett (5:42.64) and Amy Morin of Bedford (5:46.87).
Brian Lavoie of Concord won the 5K road race in 16:43.44 while the women’s winner was Julia Huffman of Manchester (17:31.08) ahead of Stephanie Burnham of Manchester, who finished at 18:49.97.
Mortimer, whose Millennium Running Company created and managed the event, announced that 975 runners registered for the race compared to 532 a year ago.
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John Habib may be reached at email@example.com.